Throughout this coronavirus crisis we have heard the refrain « We are all in it together and we will survive ». Unfortunately, for too many isolated in long term care facilities or in nursing homes these words ring hollow for them and their families.
More than half of the deaths in Canada have been those of elders who live in nursing homes or long term care facilities which are in principle organized for their special needs. In Quebec the percentage is higher than 50%.
How did this come about when, in their daily briefings, Federal and Provincial leaders and administrators have declared, with utter sincerity, that in these unprecedented times elders are particulary vulnerable, especially those with underlying medical conditions, and are to be especially cared for? Each day they have reported deaths of elders in long term facilities and nursing homes and yet only this past week in the first week of April have they been shocked by the death toll in public and private homes and moved to crisis action.
For decades and in recent times of austerity budgets, advocates have raised the many inadequacies within the health care facilities : Understaffing; underfunding; underpaid employees; privatization; space; lack of training; medical resources. This accumulation of neglect makes the inhabitants primary targets of epidemic or pandemic. Isolated from public sight, our vulnerable seniors are invisible.
Caregives, nurses and doctors, on television, radio and in print, have been describing their daily struggle to deal with shortages in staff, medical equipment and personal safety equipment. Moreover they are dealing with a population only a fraction of which has been tested regularly.
The result is overwhlemed, exhausted and frustrated health care workers in a state of grief over the loss of elder residents whom they have seen die for a lack of adequate testing and care.
We also witness the families’ anguish not being able to see their elders and to know that many would die alone and confused. Family members know that the system will neglect those most in need of care if they are not included.
They have been praised as our frontline guardian angels today! Let us not forget them when we have come though this pandemic. Let us remember that during « normal » times many health care workers are paid low salaries and need to work in several institutions in order to make a living; these rotations through mulitple homes has led to the accelerated transmission of the COVID-19 virus.
The impact of the Covid19 virus has shocked the general public into awareness of our gossly inadaquate health care system in nursing homes and residences for long term care. Our current premier has promised that the system will change. RECAA with other activists’ voices for the most vulnerable in our society say that it must change!