Canada

How we analyzed the numbers of COVID-19-related deaths in seniors' homes

Methodology for CBC's data analysis on the care homes and seniors' residences hit hardest by COVID-19.
Crosses erected for residents who lost their lives due to COVID-19 at a Toronto-area care home. (CBC)

Which facilities were included

All long-term care or retirement home facilities in Canada that reported 10 or more COVID-19-related resident deaths between March 1 and May 31, 2020.

How the rate of deaths was calculated

We divided the number of COVID-19-related deaths at each facility by the number of beds, and multiplied by 100 to give us a rate.

We used beds per facility rather than the number of residents because it is a more constant and obtainable representation of the size of the facility. However, this method does underestimate the rate of death in facilities where not all beds are occupied.

How we defined a resident death

CBC News established that a death was linked to a facility if it was confirmed by a provincial government, a health region or health board, the facility itself or a close friend or family member of the deceased person. We kept track of these deaths individually and verified our totals as of May 31 with the health regions or, in some cases, with individual facilities.

How we defined a COVID-19-related death

The provinces and territories use different methods for determining whether a death was related to COVID-19. In some cases, a lab test is required to confirm the presence of the coronavirus. In others, a combination of symptoms and a likelihood of having been exposed were considered enough.

For our analysis, we included a death as being COVID-19-related if the health region in question did so.

How we established the number of beds per facility

In B.C., we used publicly available data from the province's Seniors' Advocate.

In Alberta, that information is publicly available here.

In Ontario, that information for long-term care facilities is available here. This site does not include retirement homes. In facilities with both nursing home and retirement home beds in the same building, CBC News used the combined total of beds. 

In Quebec, we used the number of beds for each facility designated as a CHSLD, or seniors' care home, which is available here. For RPAs (Résidences privées pour aînés, or private seniors' residences), we used the number of beds per facility for RPA clients only, available here.

In Atlantic Canada, there was only one facility with more than 10 deaths. 

Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, P.E.I., Newfoundland and Labrador and the territories did not have any facilities reporting 10 or more COVID-19-related deaths.

How we defined the care home funding models

Public refers to long-term care homes that receive public funding and are operated by some level of government: municipal, provincial or health authority. These include municipally run homes in Ontario, health authority-run homes in B.C. and Alberta, and public CHSLDs in Quebec.

Non-profit refers to long-term care homes that receive public funding and are operated by a charity or not-for-profit organization.

For-profit refers to long-term care homes that receive public funding and are operated by a private company. These include for-profit nursing homes in B.C., Alberta and Ontario, and CHSLD privé conventionné facilities in Quebec.

Private refers to retirement homes and long-term care facilities that are not government funded and are fully paid for by the client. In Quebec, these include CHSLD privé and RPA facilities.

About the Author

Tara Carman

Data Journalist

Tara Carman is an investigative journalist who specializes in finding the stories buried in big data. She has more than a decade of experience reporting in B.C., across Canada and overseas. She joined CBC News in February 2017. You can reach her at tara.carman@cbc.ca or on Twitter @tarajcarman.

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