Statements & Speeches

COVID-19 Pandemic – Long-Term Care (Question Period)

June 26, 2020

Hon. Judith G. Seidman: Honourable senators, my question for the government leader today concerns a report released yesterday from the Canadian Institution for Health Information, from CIHI, stating the proportion of COVID deaths occurring in long-term care in our country is double the OECD average — 81% of all reported COVID-19 deaths in Canada, compared with an average of 42% in other OECD countries.

Eighty-one percent of all reported COVID-19 deaths in Canada are in long-term care homes. The report also stated that, as of May 25, more than 9,650 long-term care staff members were infected by COVID-19, representing more than 10% of Canada’s total cases.

Leader, could you tell us how your government will work with the provinces to ensure quality care for people in care homes across Canada, and to ensure care home workers have the PPE they need to do their job safely? And could you tell us if the Canadian Armed Forces members will remain in long-term care facilities in Quebec and Ontario, or are they still scheduled to leave today as announced by the Prime Minister two weeks ago?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): The tragedy that has befallen long-term health facilities across the country, but especially in our home province of Quebec and here in Ontario is unacceptable. It’s deplorable and it’s touched all of us in some way or another. As you properly point out, senator, the federal government has been and is in regular contact and consultations with its counterparts in the provinces and territories, who have primary responsibility.

With regard to the plans that are being discussed between the provinces and the federal government, there are conversations to take place with regard to developing, not only guidelines, but perhaps national standards for the way in which these facilities are organized and managed. Those are ongoing.

With regard to the military, I don’t have information with regard to the particular circumstances here in Ontario, but I do know that, more generally, the federal government has been responsive to the provinces when they have asked for extensions and additional help. In some cases, there has been a transition, as we know in Quebec, with a reduction in the number of military personnel helping out and the addition of Red Cross and other professionals. I just don’t have information about what’s going to happen here tomorrow in Ontario. I regret that I can’t answer your question specifically.

Senator Seidman: Thank you very much. I do hope they get this worked out in a hurry, because there will be another wave or breakouts that will have to be dealt with. So it would be a good thing.

I have another question on a different topic for you. On Tuesday, when I had the opportunity to question Minister Duclos about federal funding for the renovation of long-term care facilities across Canada, the minister pointed to the National Housing Strategy. Leader, how much funding is set aside in the National Housing Strategy specifically for the construction, renovation and retrofit of long-term care facilities?

Senator Gold: Thank you for that question. I don’t have the specific answer. I do hope, however, that the committees that we have in place — notably the Social Affairs Committee, which will continue its important work, I hope, in one form or another — will have the opportunity to seek and receive that answer.