The long-standing problem of a critical shortage of staff in LTC was exacerbated by the pandemic. Short-term measures have been initiated. Frontline staff have seen temporary salary increases. Movement of staff between LTC homes has been restricted. Response-teams have been deployed from hospitals and the military to help in LTC.
Unless appropriate minimum staffing requirements are legislated for all work in LTC and a comprehensive health human resources strategy for LTC is initiated now, this sector will continue experiencing the same problems clearly revealed during this pandemic.
Both staff shortages and the exclusion of volunteers and family members from LTC homes have certainly impacted the provision of basic care needs for residents during this pandemic.
COA recommends the following for immediate action:
- Fund more direct-care staff (e.g., RNs, RPNs, PSWs) with a regulated minimum of care hours per resident appropriate to the complexity of care needed. These care standards must include provisions for emergency situations where surge capacity may be required.
- Provide direct-care staff, whether full-time or permanent part-time workers, with wages and benefits equivalent to those available in public hospitals.
- Take immediate action, during a pandemic, to restrict staff from working in more than one location, with appropriate compensation for lost income.
- Restrict externally-contracted agency employees from working in multiple LTC homes.
- Have a plan for the deployment of critical staff to LTC in the event of staff shortages.
- Develop, update, and communicate emergency plans for pandemics and infection outbreaks that may require surge capacity or specialized services.