Many LTC homes lack the capacity and resources to deal with serious public health emergencies, let alone one as significant as COVID-19.
Several critical factors have contributed to the high death toll. These include the physical environments in LTC homes, limited space for isolation rooms, shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), lack of training in infection control, and a suboptimal level of testing for residents and staff. Some government directives have started to address these issues; for example, stopping admissions from hospitals, issuing directives related to the provision of PPE, and improving testing and surveillance.
COA recommends the following for immediate action:
- Ensure LTC homes adhere to the strictest public health standards for congregate housing and vulnerable populations.
- Ontario standards should be informed by advice from the Ontario Medical Officer of Health.
- Public Health authorities must work closely with LTC staff throughout this pandemic and must have a permanent role in surveillance, education, and support to LTC.
- Ensure a sufficient supply of PPE, now and in future, for staff and visitors to all LTC homes, and make sure that everyone is trained in their proper use.
- Implement sufficient testing and surveillance for staff and residents, now and throughout this pandemic.
- Implement and monitor strict isolation procedures for residents and staff who have tested positive.
- Conduct regular on-site inspections, follow-up on deficiencies, and apply serious penalties for non-compliance.
- Implement on-going staff training in all dimensions of infection prevention and control.