Local care home calls on leaders to create nation-wide, enforceable standards of care

Mont St. Joseph Home is a private, not-for-profit special care home in Prince Albert. Submitted photo.

A Prince Albert care home is calling on the federal government and ten provinces to create standards of care and measurable outcomes for long-term care across Canada.

Mont St. Joseph sent the letter, dated June 19, to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Prince Albert MP Randy Hoback and all ten provincial premiers . It was signed by board chair John Swystun.

The letter follows an update written in the Mont St. Joseph newsletter by its executive director that also calls for enforceable minimum standards of care.

The letter says that “devastating” incidents in some of Canada’s special care homes that came out of the COVID-19 pandemic could happen anywhere, at any time in Canada.

“Any virus is potentially life-threatening to people living in special care homes,” Mont St. Joseph wrote.

“It is no secret that long-term care providers in our country are challenged to meet the collective needs of the people living in our special care homes. Over the year, calls from organizations like ours for improvements have not resonated in meaningful ways with government, or, quite frankly, society.”

The letter goes on to say that long-term care will not improve if it isn’t a priority.

“Our organization is requesting that the Prime Minister and Premiers of Canada commit to a collaborative approach to improve the planning and provision of long-term care across our country,” the letter says.

It thanked organizations, groups and individuals who have made declarations calling for improvement, and said that while providers have a responsibility to provide safe, quality, holistic and compassionate care in places residents are treated with dignity and respect, society and governments, it said, have an obligation to ensure the care is available and sustainable.

“The provision of long-term care will not improve without strategic commitment,” the letter says.

“A collaborative process that leads to standards of care for long-term care tied to measurable outcomes and dedicated resources will be a significant step forward. These efforts must include compliance and reporting processes to ensure that standards of care are met in a consistent and sustainable fashion.

“Our country’s leaders must initiate this undertaking.”

Mont St. Joseph acknowledged that there are challenges to such a pledge, such as incremental costs and difficult decisions to determine where that money will come from.

“If nothing else,” the care home wrote, “COVID-19 has demonstrated we can no longer allow money to delay the conversation that must occur if we aspire to be better.”

The pandemic has also shown how much staff at care homes country-wide care for the people they serve. Canadians must support those efforts for the people who live in those homes, the same people who built the country, the letter said.

“Today, they are some of society’s most disenfranchised citizens,” the letter said.

“With all respect Mr. prime minister, if the person you loved most in the world had to live in a special care home tomorrow, what would your expectations be? We ask this of you — and every Canadian. We are confident you will draw conclusions similar to ours!”

Mont St. Joseph concludes by urging action, as Canada cannot wait for another health-care crisis.

“Together, let’s commit to a collaborative approach to make changes that improve the planning and provision of care in our country’s special care homes. It is time for action.”

The letter comes on the heels of conversation across Canada and in Saskatchewan about what care homes need.

Speaking to the Herald in June, Mont St. Joseph executive director Brian Martin said what is needed is a set of standards of care with compliance and reporting measures.

The government has pointed to its care guidelines, saying they are the minimum standards of care. But the opposition NDP and Martin have said that’s not enough.

“We’ve argued forever that the province’s program guidelines for special care homes are just that — they’re guidelines,” Martin said.

“The program guidelines that the Ministry of Health is using, they’ve been there forever. They were around when the NDP was here, they were around when the Sask. Party got into power. There have been some minor revisions to them, but in the grand scheme of things, they’re not that much different than they were 20 years ago.”

Martin said his organization has been advocating for standards of care that are tied to measurable outcomes with specific, dedicated resources.

“We’ve been preaching that message for a long, long time,” he said.

In May, according to the Canadian Press, backbench Liberal MPs called for national standards of care for long-term care homes. The topic has come up in meetings between the prime minister and premiers.

But Saskatchewan has denied its long-term care homes need assistance. Moe has argued that Saskatchewan already has standards of care and said its care homes have not been subject to the high death rate seen in other provinces. Moe and his ministers have repeatedly pointed to the guidelines and said they are the standards of care.

Ministers have attributed the lack of spread of COVID-19 to the standards in place and the hard work of staff. They’ve denied the province has any need for national standards of care or funding for long-term care homes.

The opposition NDP has disagreed, citing experiences of patients and families, and said the lack of COVID-19 spread is due to the work of staff, the province’s geography, and luck. They are also calling for enforceable standards of care.