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COVID-19 response in Canadian care homes shaped more by size, than ownership: poll

Last Updated May 25, 2021 at 10:36 pm PDT

Bed at nursing home with nurse and wheelchair on background. (CREDIT: iStock photo)

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — For Canadians with loved ones in long-term care, confidence in how the home handled the pandemic was largely determined by the facility’s size — regardless of whether it was publicly or privately owned.

The findings of a survey released by the Angus Reid Institute Tuesday found that one in five Canadians think the long-term care home their loved one was in failed or fell short of their expectations.

However, President Shachi Kurl says the “vast majority” reported overall satisfaction.

“That experience does point out that there is a significant segment who feel that their loved one was failed by their long term care facility during the pandemic, but overall the majority say the place that my relative or my loved one was in really did try very hard and, in many cases, succeeded to mitigate or minimize the amount of deaths or illness that occurred at their facilities,” she says.

With deaths among elders in these facilities accounting for two-thirds of the nation’s fatalities, a debate was sparked over what can or should be done to improve the quality of care.

“There’s been, you know so much conversation in the last year about the state of long-term care in Canada. Is there a need, is there a role for more government intervention? Does private care or for-profit care have a role or an appropriate place in long-term care?” Kurl explains

“Part of the reason we, we did this study was just to kind of understand the dynamics of what’s going on with Canadians who have a loved one in long-term care.”

The federal NDP along with several large labour unions have been advocating for an end to private, for-profit care homes in the country. However, Kurl says despite some of the “horror stories” and headlines highlighting private homes that were devastated by outbreaks and deaths, the reality is more complex.

“What you see is I think a snapshot or reflection, among those with a lived experience or a very personal proximity to what’s been happening in these long-term care homes,” she notes.

“So much of the conversation around the future of long-term care over the last year has really focused on public versus private. Is there a role for for-profit operators in the long-term care space? Should private operators be allowed to own and run long term care facilities What these data show is according to people who have loved one in these facilities, they’re reporting more differences depending on the size of the facility.”

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The ratings for homes run by smaller, private companies were higher than those run by the government or a large chain, Kurl says. Two-in-five of those whose loved one is in a smaller private facility said that the overall care is excellent, while nine per cent take an overall negative view. Twenty-eight per cent of those whose loved one is in a larger private facility say the quality of nursing care is poor or terrible; this proportion is double that of those in smaller private facilities.

“The big the big takeaway really is, in terms of satisfaction around how a long term care facility reacted and dealt with the COVID 19 pandemic, it was less a matter of public versus private in terms of the lived experience of these relatives, and more a matter of was the facility, part of a large corporate chain, or was it a smaller, independently owned facility,” Kurl concludes.

The poll also found only one-in-five would not recommend the current facility where their loved one lives, compared with 45 per cent who say they probably would, and 24 per cent who say they definitely would.

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