Earlier this year, Revera engaged a panel of external experts with global experience in a range of relevant fields to review Revera’s experience with COVID-19 from March to September. Revera took the extraordinary step of handing over all our data we had collected during this time for their analysis. It was decided before we set out on this discovery mission that if we wanted actionable advice, full transparency was required on our part and nothing would be left off the table. The mandate of the panel was to identify opportunities for improvement and develop implementable recommendations. Revera also agreed that editorial control over the report would sit with the Panel’s Chair, Dr. Bob Bell.
Despite the world knowing about COVID-19 for nearly a year, we continue to learn many new things about it. The world had never seen this strain of coronavirus before and since it arrived in Canada, we have witnessed how it disproportionately affects society’s most vulnerable, particularly older adults living in long term care homes.
The Expert Advisory Panel was chaired by Dr. Bob Bell, a health care professional with more than 40 years’ experience as a doctor, surgeon, hospital CEO and deputy minister of health in Ontario. The panel also included national and international experts in public health, infection prevention, infectious disease, geriatric care, labour/management principles and architectural design. For almost three months, this group combed through Revera’s data to answer why COVID-19 had such tragic effects in Canada’s long term care sector. This report is incredibly timely as we face the second and subsequent waves of COVID-19.
The report’s recommendations fall into four broad categories:
- Community prevalence of COVID-19 is a key driver of infection rates in long term care;
- Surveillance testing of staff is essential;
- Building design is key and governments need to accelerate the redevelopment of aging long term care infrastructure;
- Governments and operators need to address the long-standing staffing challenges that were exacerbated by the pandemic.
Again, I encourage everyone and especially all families, staff and health professionals to read the full findings in the report.
Long term care isn’t always happy, and it’s not always sad either. But what is happening in the conversations about long term care right now is sad. The public discussion that should be taking place is a hard and honest examination of long term care and how to improve outcomes for residents and the staff who care for them. Instead, we are seeing media coverage and political conversations being dominated by ideological beliefs and instant experts with opinions that are not supported by facts.
I am pleased that A Perfect Storm provides factual information that will help all of us better understand the challenges faced when the pandemic occurred, and how we can improve the system to better deliver compassionate care to serve residents and their families. The recommendations outlined in the panel’s report are meant to serve as a guide as we work with our health care partners and governments to bring about the changes needed to better serve our aging population.
There is no quick fix for the issues that are facing our sector. It’s going to take time and a lot of investment. It will also take a productive collaboration between all levels of government, the public and the private sector. The bottom line is that long term care is our residents’ home. It’s not a hospital, it’s not an acute care facility. We must respect our residents and their homes.
There’s a saying that “how a society treats its most vulnerable is the measure of its humanity.” Let’s pull together to make the decisions necessary to improve long term care to benefit its residents, their families and the people who serve them.