Adopt new long-term care standards, MLA urges
Prince Edward Island’s official opposition is urging the province to pass new national standards for long-term care homes and enact them into law.
The new standards of care were released Tuesday by the Health Standards Organization.
They are voluntary but are designed to improve the quality of life for residents of nursing homes across the country.
Green Party MLA Michele Beaton, the opposition health and wellness critic, says the province needs to implement enforceable mandates.
“If you enact something, it has to happen,” she said.
“As it is today, we do not meet the standards of care that are set today. So we need to legislate to make sure it stays that way.”
The standards are part of a project launched by the federal government in spring 2021 to increase the quality of care in long-term facilities.
They cover everything from preventing falls to maintaining flexible meal plans, along with contingency plans and end-of-life care.
The standards project was created in response to the high number of COVID-19 deaths and reports of neglect and poor quality of care across Canada during the pandemic.
PEI was no exception as nursing homes struggled with staff and resource shortages and challenges to keep residents safe from COVID-19.
We have repeatedly heard from residents and relatives that they cannot speak out because they are afraid of reprisals.-Michele Beaton
The new national standards also highlight the need to ensure residents can provide feedback and raise concerns, which Beaton says is essential.
“We actually need to have a system that wants to hear from them and that it’s a safe environment. We have heard time and time again from residents and relatives that they are unable to speak for fear of reprisals. “
Another set of national standards focusing on infrastructure in long-term care facilities was published in December.
It includes recommendations such as dedicated hand hygiene sinks and access to outdoor areas for each level of a long-term care home.
Ramsay Duff, Chair of the Private Nursing Homes’ Association of PEI, said the two new sets of standards are necessary and that PEI should get down to work to adopt them.
“If these standards had been fully implemented two years ago, we would not have had the death rate or the severity of the disease that was affecting so many islanders,” he said. “I absolutely believe that those standards would have made a difference.”
However, he noted that private homes would need more financial support from the government to receive renovations, staff and resources needed to bring them up to date.
“The provincial government needs to come to a table with all operators and set their expectations, both in terms of funding and timing,” he said.
External review not public yet
Last summer, the PEI government commissioned an external panel to review how private and public households are dealing with COVID-19 and the effects on employees and residents.
Beaton wants the review published.
“That’s going to allow us to really dig deep into those national standards to see where these gaping holes are that we can fix. Islanders living in long-term care need us to do this. This has to be a priority,” she said.
CBC reached out to the PEI government for comment on Tuesday, but received no response.