Adopt new long-term care standards, MLA urges
Voluntary standards come after reports of death, neglect during COVID-19 pandemic
Prince Edward Island's Official Opposition is calling on the province to adopt new national standards for long-term care homes, and put them into legislation.
The new standards for care were published Tuesday by the Health Standards Organization.
They are voluntary, but are meant to improve the quality of life for residents in long-term care homes across the country.
Green Party MLA Michele Beaton, the Opposition critic for health and wellness, says the province needs to implement enforceable mandates.
"When you legislate something, then it has to happen," she said.
"Even as it is today, we're not meeting the standards of care that are laid out today. So we have to legislate it in order to ensure that that will be followed through on."
The standards are part of a project launched by the federal government in the spring of 2021 to increase the quality of care in long-term facilities.
They address everything from preventing falls to maintaining flexible meal schedules, along with emergency plans and end-of-life care.
The standards project was created in response to the high rate of COVID-19 deaths, and reports of neglect and a poor quality of care across Canada, throughout the pandemic.
P.E.I. was no exception, as nursing homes struggled with staffing and resource shortages and challenges protecting residents from COVID-19.
We've heard over and over again from residents and loved ones that they can't speak out because they're worried about reprisal.— Michele Beaton
The new national standards also point to the need to ensure residents can provide feedback and raise concerns, which Beaton said is essential.
"We actually have to have a system that wants to hear from them and that it is a safe environment. We've heard over and over again from residents and loved ones that they can't speak out because they're worried about reprisal."
Another set of national standards, focused on infrastructure in long-term care settings, was released in December.
It includes recommendations like having dedicated hand hygiene sinks and access to outdoor space for every level of a long-term care home.
Ramsay Duff, chair of the Private Nursing Homes' Association of P.E.I., said the two new sets of standards are necessary, and that P.E.I. should get to work adopting them.
"If these standards had been implemented in full two years ago, we would not have had the level of death rate, or the acuity of sickness that impacted so many Islanders," he said. "I absolutely believe these standards would've made a difference."
He noted, however, that private homes would need more financial support from government, for whatever renovations, staffing and resources are needed to get them up to standard.
"The provincial government needs to come to the table with all the operators, and set their expectations, both in terms of funding and timelines," he said.
External review not yet public
Last summer, the P.E.I. government commissioned an external panel to review how well private and public homes dealt with COVID-19, and the impact on staff and residents.
Beaton wants the review made public.
"That will allow us to really dig deep into these national standards to see where these gaping holes are that we can fix. Islanders living in long-term care need us to do this. This has to be a priority," she said.
CBC reached out to the P.E.I. government for comment Tuesday, but did not receive a response.
With files from Steve Bruce