Canada vows changes in senior care after military shines spotlight on shortfalls

MONTREAL/OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday vowed to help provincial authorities revamp the country’s senior care system after soldiers helping in nursing homes in Ontario and Quebec reported serious shortfalls this week.

FILE PHOTO: Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during a meeting of the special committee on the COVID-19 outbreak, as efforts continue to help slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada May 20, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable

Nursing homes account for around 80% of all deaths attributed to the new coronavirus in Canada. The situation is dire in Ontario, the most populous province, and in neighboring Quebec. Some 1,400 military personnel are pitching in to help.

“Everything is on the table,” Trudeau said in his daily press conference when asked what the federal government would do to help fix the current system.

A military report on Quebec’s long-term care facilities released on Wednesday described a shortage of workers with medical training, said the use of personal protective equipment had to be improved, and added there must be better separation of infected residents from non-infected ones.

A separate armed forces report from Tuesday about five of the worst-affected Ontario homes was more alarming. It described residents left in soiled diapers, and patient rooms filled with “significant fecal contamination,” cockroaches, and ants.

Canada’s coronavirus deaths on Wednesday rose to 6,671, a 1.6% increase from a day earlier, according to official data.

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province was taking over management of five homes as it has already done with two others.

Following Wednesday’s report, Quebec Premier Francois Legault said the province is launching a three-month training program for orderlies as it faces a shortage of 10,000 workers in its long term care facilities.

Recruits that complete the paid program will start with a full-time job paying C$26 an hour, he said.

“We still need more people,” Legault told reporters in Quebec City.

Quebec accounts for more than half of Canada’s deaths and cases from coronavirus, and most have been in nursing homes.

Reporting by Allison Lampert in Montreal and Steve Scherer in Ottawa, additional reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg; Editing by Marguerita Choy