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

Kendra Blakely, of Lake Country, was born an amputee but thanks to the War Amps Child Amputee program she has been able to take part in activities as a child and now into her 20s. (War Amps photos)
War Amps swings in support for Lake Country CHAMP

Key tag program celebrates 75 years of helping amputees like Kendra

A student works in a science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary on Friday, March 12, 2021. (Photo: Lauren Collins)
COVID-19 exposures at 2 Central Okanagan schools

Ellison Elementary and Ècole Kelowna Secondary School are reporting exposures

Nolan Foote becomes the 62nd Rocket to suit up in an NHL regular-season game on Sunday afternoon (Photo: Kelowna Rockets)
Former Kelowna Rockets captain plays first NHL game

Nolan Foote played his first game with the New Jersey Devils on Sunday

Pastor Cliff Siebert of the Okanagan Landing Community Church (centre) addresses some of his congregation in-person for the first time in many months Sunday, April 18, as the church held the first of what they hope will be regular outdoor services with COVID protocols adhered to and obeyed. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Vernon church hosts outdoor service

Okanagan Landing Community Church put strict COVID protocols in place to hold sermon in back parking lot

The City of Armstrong has been named one of Canada’s 20 best towns to live based on low cost of living and high paying jobs, according to a survey by Numbeo. (Facebook photo/Rhythm Productions)
Armstrong lands among 20 best cities to live in Canada

Survey conducted based on low cost of living and high paying jobs; five other B.C. towns on list

In this image from NASA, NASA’s experimental Mars helicopter Ingenuity lands on the surface of Mars Monday, April 19, 2021. The little 4-pound helicopter rose from the dusty red surface into the thin Martian air Monday, achieving the first powered, controlled flight on another planet. (NASA via AP)
VIDEO: NASA’s Mars helicopter takes flight, 1st for another planet

The $85 million helicopter demo was considered high risk, yet high reward

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

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, an Okanagan based-law practice, and provides Kelowna Capital News with weekly stories from the world of local, national and international law. (Contributed)
Kootnekoff: B.C. ESA vaccine amendments

Susan Kootnekoff is the founder of Inspire Law, her diverse legal career spans over 20 years

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Kelowna City Hall. (Michael Rodriguez - Capital News)
City of Kelowna sues alleged vandals

The city is suing two men, alleging they have damaged city property with graffiti over the years

New figures show Canadian housing prices outpacing those in other developed countries. (Black Press Media file photo)
Canadian housing prices fastest rising in the world

Relative to 2000, housing prices have risen by a factor of more than 2.5

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
80-million-year-old turtle find on B.C. river exciting fossil hunters

Remains of two-foot creature of undetermined species will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Joudelie King wants to get out and live life to the fullest, but there are places she can’t go because they don’t meet her accessibility needs. (submitted photo)
New online tool provides accessibility map for people with disabilities

The myCommunity BC map provides accessibility info for nearly 1,000 locations in the province

Most Read