More help on the way to combat COVID-19 crisis unfolding in long-term care
SUDBURY -- Canadian long-term care homes have quickly become the front-lines in the battle against COVID-19.
It's something that Sandra Lafave-Ransom knows all too well.
An essential worker herself, the only contact she's had with her 86-year-old mother Velma in Sudbury, is through a glass window.
On Wednesday, she got a call from Velma's facility asking if she were to pass away, which funeral home would they prefer.
Lafave-Ransom knows they're just doing their job, but in a pandemic, it wasn't an easy phone call to get.
"I was a little bit in shock and unprepared for that question. I didn't expect it," said Lafave-Ransom. "I'm sure that's part of the reason they're doing that, to be ready in case something happens."
While the Sudbury, Ont. facility doesn't have a confirmed case of COVID-19, Lafave-Ransom says it's been difficult.
She's quite close to her mother and would visit her once a week, but she knows the rules are in place for everyone's safety.
"It's been six weeks," said Lafave-Ransom. "Every Sunday is our day to sit together to watch TV. I download a bunch of movies for her and shows, and we haven't been able to do that. The best I've been able to do so far is just stand at her closed window. I do realize it's good for my mom, it's good for everybody. We need to battle this pandemic and we need to win."
Critics say three of the main problems facing the system are facilities are overcrowded, understaffed and staff are underpaid.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has not ruled out additional supports for seniors in these situations and is planning on meeting with the premiers Thursday evening to discuss what role the Canadian government can play.
"The last a few weeks have been very difficult listening to the tragic stories and just starting to get a handle on what's been going on across the country, specifically B.C. started early and now Ontario and Quebec are in the grip of it. So, my heart goes out to all those families who have lost loved ones," said Minister of Seniors Deb Schulte.
Her comments come after the federal government enacted some new guidelines over the weekend in hopes of tackling this issue with a "Team Canada" approach.
"It's having access to protective equipment, having the guidance for what needs to be done, it was being done differently across the country. B.C. had an early outbreak and they got right on top of it," said Schulte.
The Minister of Seniors says they needed to make sure everyone had the best advice and evidence so they could do the right thing and initiate best practices.
"There are 13 different models on how long-term care works across the country based on every province and territory running it differently. So, we need to provide the right guidelines or help in terms of securing protective equipment, because a lot of it is measures to make sure you're protecting the clients, the residents that live in these facilities and that you're protecting the staff," said Schulte.
She says they're also supporting provinces and territories by helping them to top up the incomes of personal support workers.
Schulte says she's aware many homes have been finding it hard to find help because the jobs are low-paying and they're either getting sick or not showing up to work out of fear they'll get the virus.
The minister adds they've expanded the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) so those who part-time can also qualify.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has also committed to sending teams into the homes in hopes of helping an already busy medical staff.
In the meantime, Lafave-Ransom doesn't fault the staff and administrators at her mother's Greater Sudbury facility. Her hat goes off to the staff who are showing up to work.
"They're always understaffed there, and with this pandemic, it's probably even worse. I'm not in there to see it, but I imagine they're working double-time, and I appreciate them," said Lafave-Ransom.