Langley activist Dorscie Paterson celebrated her 108th birthday on Monday, Jan. 25 at the Cedar Hill long-term care facility. Because of the pandemic, she remained inside, able to see, but not shake hands with visitors. (Dan Ferguson)

Langley activist Dorscie Paterson celebrated her 108th birthday on Monday, Jan. 25 at the Cedar Hill long-term care facility. Because of the pandemic, she remained inside, able to see, but not shake hands with visitors. (Dan Ferguson)

Canada’s long-term care residents got less medical care in 1st wave of pandemic: report

The proportion of residents who received a visit from a physician between March 1 and Aug. 31 last year was down 16%

A new study shows residents in long-term care homes in several provinces received less medical care and had less contact with family and friends during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic than the previous year.

In a report released Tuesday, the Canadian Institute for Health Information says the proportion of long-term care residents who received a visit from a physician between March 1 and Aug. 31 of last year was down 16 per cent compared with that same period in 2019.

The report says that drop was seen in all five provinces where data were available – Ontario, Manitoba, Alberta, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador –even when homes did not have an outbreak.

There was a similar decrease in physician care orders for long-term care residents, which suggests virtual visits from doctors did not replace in-person ones, it says.

The document says 11 per cent of assessments during the first wave found the resident had not had any contact with friends or relatives over the previous week, even by phone or video — three times more than the same period in 2019.

Residents who had no contact with friends or family were more likely to be assessed with depression — 36 per cent compared with 23 per cent for those who were in touch with loved ones.

Meanwhile, the report shows there was a slight increase in antipsychotic drugs prescribed to long-term care residents in six provinces during the first wave compared with the previous year.

“It would appear that care changed significantly for these people,” said Tracy Johnson, director of health system analysis and emerging issues at CIHI.

While it’s impossible to determine the impact of those changes based on the data, there were also more deaths from any cause among long-term care residents between March 1 and June 30 of last year than during that same time in each of the previous five years, Johnson said.

“If you have nursing staff who are run off their feet, taking care of people with COVID, you don’t have as many…physicians in to see people, and you have less visitors to note that their loved one has changed in some way, people possibly got sick, and possibly some of the unintended consequences here were more deaths,” she said.

Long-term care homes in many parts of Canada experienced staffing shortages during the first wave of the pandemic, and most provinces imposed restrictions on visitors, including family members and caregivers.

The report also notes fewer patients were transferred from long-term care to hospital, with the number of transfers down by 27 per cent.

The drop was the biggest in Ontario, where hospital transfers decreased by 30 per cent, and the lowest in Newfoundland and Alberta, which each saw a reduction of 13 per cent, the document says.

The most significant decreases were seen in transfers for infections and other medical conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or heart failure, the report says. Those saw between 51 and 58 per cent fewer transfers, it says.

Some provinces had recommendations that discouraged hospital transfers from the long-term care sector during the pandemic, the report says.

“There may be some argument that says that we send people to hospital from long-term care, which is their home, and we could have provided better ongoing care for some of this in a home. So, we’re always looking at whether or not some of these kinds of transfers are appropriate,” Johnson said.

“But a 50 per cent decrease seems like a lot, and when you combine that with less physicians visiting and less people around to understand this person, very potentially they didn’t receive care that they needed.”

Forty per cent fewer people were also admitted to long-term care homes during the first wave than during the same period in 2019, the report says.

The biggest reduction — 58 per cent — was seen in admissions from the community, which suggests Canadians may have been reluctant to place their relatives in long-term care during the pandemic, Johnson said. Homes may also have been hesitant to bring in more residents at that time, she said.

A spokesperson for Ontario’s minister of long-term care said COVID-19 has exposed systemic issues in the LTC system, and the report shows “almost all provinces and territories faced challenges” in dealing with the pandemic.

The province is taking steps to modernize the sector, including boosting staffing levels and prioritizing staff and residents when it comes to vaccination, Krystle Caputo said in an email.

“The vast majority of residents have received both doses of a vaccine and we have made significant progress in vaccinating staff and essential caregivers,” she said.

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

“Hot Rod” cast members in Cloverdale during the movie shoot in the summer of 2006, in a photo by Paul Orazietti, executive director of Cloveradale Business Improvement Association. (submitted photo)
SURREY NOW & THEN: ‘Hot Rod’ comedy helped put Cloverdale on movie/TV map

Film backer says Surrey needs to publicize such site highlights, with ‘Smallville’ and more

Police responded to a report of a shooting in the 1300-block of 176 Street at around 7:15 p.m. on June 3, 2017. (File photo)
Trial dates set for senior charged in 2017 ‘targeted’ South Surrey shooting

Jury trial for Kenneth Turpin scheduled to begin Oct. 25

Earl Marriott Secondary alumna Tanis Orsetti has received a $15,000 Cmolik Graduate Studies Scholarship to further her studies in the field of medicine. (File/Contributed photo)
Earl Marriott alumna selected for new $15K scholarship

Tanis Orsetti is studying the use immunotherapy in cancer treatment

Eternity Medical Equipment’s ECAN95 masks have received Health Canada approval and CSA certification. (Eternity Medical Equipment photo)
South Surrey N-95 equivalent manufacturer launches mask recycling program

Eternity Medical Equipment partners with Ontario-based LifeCycle Revive

People take part in an anti-curfew protest in Montreal on Sunday April 11, 2021. Hundreds of people gathered in Old Montreal tonight in defiance of a new 8 p.m. curfew. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giuseppe Valiante
VIDEO: Hundreds defy Montreal’s 8 p.m. curfew in violent, destructive protest

Quebec reported 1,535 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, as well as five additional deaths linked to the virus

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia’s opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan’s government, but they say Monday’s throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province’s economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

Farnworth said the budget will include details of government investment in communities and infrastructure

FILE - An arena worker removes the net from the ice after the Vancouver Canucks and Calgary Flames NHL hockey game was postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test result, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in this Wednesday, March 31, 2021, file photo. As vaccinations ramp up past a pace of 3 million a day in the U.S, the NHL is in a tougher spot than the other three major North American professional sports leagues because seven of 31 teams are based on Canada. (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP, File)
Vancouver Canucks scheduled to practice Sunday, resume games April 16 after COVID outbreak

Canucks outbreak delayed the team’s season by eight games

Most Read