Provincial long-term care standards vary drastically across the country and, in some cases, fall far short of new national standards released earlier this year, the National Institute on Ageing revealed in a report released Wednesday.
The Health Standards Organization developed the new standards to boost quality of life and prevent the spread of infection after the COVID-19 pandemic cast a harsh spotlight on conditions in long-term care homes across the country.
Provinces and territories requested a report from the institute to figure out how far they are from meeting the new standards.
The institute’s report found that only 25 of the 117 criteria laid out in the national standards could be found in the policies of all provinces and territories,as of December 2022.
Not a single province or territory covered everything the national standard calls for.
“It reminds us that there’s a lot to be done,” said Dr. Samir Sinha, the report’s co-author and director of health policy research at the institute.
Most provinces have policies that align with the standards when it comes to resident responsibilities and rights, and assessment and care plans.
They were more likely to neglect the need to collect workforce data or stipulate policies for quality improvement, the report shows.
The institute also found a lack of oversight in most provinces and territories when it came to having a trauma-informed approach to care, workplace wellness programs, environmental stewardship and workforce experience surveys.
“What was concerning for me most was that when you see that there are so many criteria that have barely registered … the question then becomes, in what mechanism is there real enforcement and assurance that those things are going to be attended to?” Sinha said.
Long-term care falls under provincial jurisdiction, but the federal government has also promised to draft legislation to guarantee safety in long-term care homes as part of a supply-and-confidence agreement with the NDP.
The government hasn’t announced how it plans to do that yet, and the deal, which expires in 2025, does not stipulate when the Liberals must table the legislation.
Nonetheless, Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has indicated a bill could come before the end of that year.
In the meantime, some provinces have already begun to adjust their standards and policies, Sinha said.
“There may be more progress afoot, where provinces have since decided that they’re going to further upgrade their criteria and standards to be more compliant with the national standards,” he said.
Sinha said the report isn’t intended to name and shame particular jurisdictions for falling behind the national standards, but rather to give them a snapshot of how they compare and offer some insight about where they can look for examples of better practices.
“Instead of having to start from scratch, they can simply rob and duplicate best practices from other provincial or territorial partners. That was the goal,” he said.
The federal government set aside $3 billion in the 2021 budget to help provinces improve conditions in long-term care homes.
It also promised $1.7 billion over five years to increase wages for personal support workers in long-term care and home care as part of a renegotiated health deal with provinces.