Hospital transfer workers are seen outside the Lynn Valley Centre care home in North Vancouver, B.C. on April 8, 2020. The longterm care home was among the first in B.C. to record multiple deaths due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Hospital transfer workers are seen outside the Lynn Valley Centre care home in North Vancouver, B.C. on April 8, 2020. The longterm care home was among the first in B.C. to record multiple deaths due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Canada’s proportion of COVID long-term care deaths double that of other countries: study

LTC residents made up 81 per cent of all reported COVID-19 deaths in the country

A new study finds the proportion of Canadian COVID-19 deaths that have occurred in long-term care facilities is about twice the average of rates from other developed nations.

The analysis released Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information provides a damning snapshot of senior care as of May 25, when LTC residents made up 81 per cent of all reported COVID-19 deaths in the country compared to an average of 42 per cent among all countries studied.

The data compares Canada’s record to that of 16 other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. The proportion of LTC deaths ranged from less than 10 per cent in Slovenia and Hungary to 31 per cent in the United States to 66 per cent in Spain.

At 5,324, the reported number of LTC deaths in Canada was near the average but data varied widely among countries: from 28 in Australia to 30,000 in the U.S., with more than 10,000 in France, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Researchers point to limitations that prevent some comparisons — countries vary in COVID-19 testing and reporting practices, and in their definition of long-term care.

In addition, COVID-19 cases are often under-reported and in the case of Italy, data was available from only 52 per cent of the nursing homes operating in the country.

Nevertheless, Tracy Johnson, CIHI’s director of health systems analysis and emerging issues, says the data offers valuable insight into a tragedy many families, caregivers and residents have been trying to illustrate since the pandemic began.

Johnson notes countries that implemented additional LTC precautions at the same time as standard stay-at-home orders had fewer LTC infections and deaths.

That includes Australia, Austria and Slovenia, which ordered broad LTC testing and training, isolation wards to manage clusters, surge staffing, specialized teams and personal protective equipment.

Johnson says the findings suggest such measures could be key to mitigating the impact of a possible second wave.

But for now, she notes several of Canada’s hardest-hit facilities are still grappling with the devastating fallout of existing infections.

“Even if all of these (measures are instituted) there will be other folks who will die because some people are infected right now, still, and the outbreaks are still ongoing,” she says.

“Some of the control measures though will probably help to at least keep the rates the same as they are.”

READ MORE: Canadian Armed Forces members at risk of COVID-19 while on long-term care duty to get extra pay

The contrast in LTC deaths is even more stark between provinces and territories, says the report, which notes LTC deaths represented more than 70 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths in Quebec, Ontario and Alberta and 97 per cent of all deaths in Nova Scotia.

There were none in Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and the territories at the time of the study. Two LTC residents have since died in New Brunswick.

Dr. Roger Wong, clinical professor of geriatric medicine at the University of British Columbia, says the numbers are “very concerning” and point to long-standing systemic problems that include inadequate staffing and resources and inconsistent standards.

“There needs to be a fundamental reprioritization, focusing attention and resources, time and effort into the sector right away. Because I can tell you that what COVID-19 has shown us in terms of a major lesson is a fragmentation (of) seniors’ care,” Wong says from Vancouver.

“Which means it makes it more difficult for all of us to support our older Canadians with equal and consistent access to the services that are necessary, based on their care needs at their age.”

READ MORE: Liberal MPs call for national standards for long-term care homes

Wong is part of a federal task force working on national recommendations on how best to help LTC homes battle COVID-19.

He says he recently spoke to a Senate standing committee on the topic, drawing on data from June 1 when reports of LTC deaths totalled 6,007, or 82 per cent of deaths.

Wong encourages more specific training in geriatric and palliative care as well as psychiatry. And he suggests it’s time to put provincially-driven long-term care mandates under the Canada Health Act.

“I see the federal government having its role in terms of setting the national standards and benchmarking so that expectations are set (and) no matter which province or territory our older Canadians are living in they can be protected in the same way under that framework,” says Wong.

“(For) individual provinces and territories, it is about implementation of those national, federally set benchmarks and standards.”

The CIHI analysis compared Canada to countries that had sufficient data for reporting: Australia, Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusSeniors

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared last Thursday (Nov. 19). (Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
Forty-one positive COVID-19 cases associated with the LNG Canada site outbreak

Thirty-four of the 41 cases remain active, according to Northern Health

Cases have gone up in Northern Health in the past week, as they have all over B.C. (K-J Millar/Black Press Media)
Northern Health reports new highest number of COVID-19 cases in one day

Nineteen cases were reported to Public Health last Tuesday (Nov. 17)

FILE – British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry wears a face mask as she views the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Masks now mandatory in all public indoor and retail spaces in B.C.

Many retailers and businesses had voiced their frustration with a lack of mask mandate before

(Photo courtesy of LNG Canada)
An aerial shot of Cedar Valley Lodge this past August, LNG Canada’s newest accommodation for workers. This is where several employees are isolating after a COVID-19 outbreak was declared Thursday.
COVID-19 outbreak at LNG Canada Project site

14 employees have tested positive for COVID-19 at this time

A man has been arrested after a Nov. 11 break and enter at the Sandspit Airport, Queen Charlotte RCMP said in a media release on. Nov 17. (Black Press Media files)
Man arrested after Nov. 11 break and enter at local airport

Queen Charlotte RCMP investigate recent spate of break and enters

People wearing face masks to help curb the spread of COVID-19 cross a street in downtown Vancouver, on Sunday, November 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. reports 17 COVID deaths, 1,933 new cases as hospitalizations surge over the weekend

There are 277 people in hospital, of whom 59 are in ICU or critical care

Workers arrive at the Lynn Valley Care Centre seniors home, in North Vancouver, B.C., on Saturday, March 14, 2020. It was the site of Canada’s first COVID-19 outbreak in a long-term care facility. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Rapid tests ‘not a panacea’ for care homes, Dr. Bonnie Henry says

B.C. lacks capacity for daily tests of thousands of workers

(Delta Police Department photo)
Cannabis edibles found in Halloween bag lead B.C. police to illegal lab

Delta police arrested a man and a woman while executing a warrant at a residential property Nov. 20

A woman being arrested at a Kelowna Value Village after refusing to wear a mask on Nov. 22.(@Jules50278750/Twitter)
VIDEO: Woman arrested for refusing to wear mask at Kelowna Value Village

RCMP claims the woman was uncooperative with officers, striking them a number of times and screaming

B.C. Liberal MLA Shirley Bond questions NDP government ministers in the B.C. legislature, Feb. 19, 2020. (Hansard TV)
Cabinet veteran Shirley Bond chosen interim leader of B.C. Liberals

28-member opposition prepares for December legislature session

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Motorists wait to enter a Fraser Health COVID-19 testing facility, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, November 9, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID-19: What do rising positivity rates mean for B.C.? It’s not entirely clear

Coronavirus cases are on the rise but the province has not unveiled clear thresholds for further measures

A rider carves a path on Yanks Peak Saturday, Nov. 21. Two men from Prince George went missing on the mountain the next day. One of them, Colin Jalbert, made it back after digging out his sled from four feet under the snow. The other, Mike Harbak, is still missing. Local search and rescue teams went out looking Monday, Nov. 23. (Sam Fait Photo)
‘I could still be the one out there’: Snowmobiler rescued, 1 missing on northern B.C. mountain

As Quesnel search and rescue teams search for the remaining rider, Colin Jalbert is resting at home

More than 70 anglers participated in the bar-fishing demonstration fishery on Sept. 9, 2020 on the Fraser River near Chilliwack. DFO officers ticketed six people and seized four rods. A court date is set for Dec. 1, 2020. (Jennifer Feinberg/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Anglers ticketed in Fraser River demonstration fishery heading to court

Sportfishing groups started a GoFundMe with almost $20K so far for legal defence of six anglers

Most Read