It has been well over a year since Prime Minister Trudeau first committed to set national long-term care standards. With the recent release of a new draft national standard for long-term care, we may be one step closer towards change in Canada’s long-term care system. But legislated standards with teeth are yet a long ways off, and we need the public to call for federal leadership now more than ever.
BCHC's take on it
There's a lot to applaud about HSO's new draft National Long-Term Care Services Standard released on January 27th. Created by a technical committee comprised of long-term care residents and family members, long-term care staff, academics, and policy makers, the standards were informed by preliminary rounds of public engagement and the input of over 18,000 Canadians. Themes from the public engagement phases are captured in the accompanying report, What We Heard Report #2. Without a doubt, this extensive consultation was instrumental in shaping the new standards.
The focus of the new standard is on providing resident-centred care and ensuring residents have more of a say about their day-to-day, recognizing that facilities are their home. Other priorities of the standard include working in a team-based way; enabling a healthy, competent, and resilient workforce with healthy working conditions; and upholding strong governance practices. If these standards are put into practice, long-term care will improve across the country by leaps and bounds.
There's also plenty of room for concern with the progress on national long-term care standards to date. Our top concerns?
- Implementation. Acting like more of a principled guide, the new draft standards offer few concrete objectives and may be too flexible to be meaningfully implemented. When it comes down to how provinces and facilities will put these standards into practice, we're worried that too much may be left up to interpretation.
- Legislation. Unless these standards become the basis of regulation or legislation, they risk being little more than voluntary suggestions. These industry standards cannot be a substitute for the Liberals' promised "Safe Long-Term Care Act". A legislated standard is the only way to ensure provinces improve long-term care standards. With the federal Health Minister indicating that Ottawa will respect provincial jurisdiction over long-term care, there's reason to doubt the federal government's commitment to legislating standards with teeth.
- Funding. With only $3 billion over five years set aside for long-term care standards in the previous budget, we are far from seeing the funding commitment that will be needed to implement new standards. A report by the Parliamentary Budget Officer last year estimated the cost of long-term care reform to be closer to $13.7 billion per year.
- For-profit ownership. The new draft standards fail to acknowledge the majority of Canadians who wish to see for-profit long-term care phased out. In BCHC members' submissions to HSO, the theme of for-profit care resounded loud and clear. Neither the new report nor the draft standards make any mention of how ownership shapes the experiences of staff and residents. "Reconsidering the provision of For-Profit LTC Care" was identified as a key issue in HSO's What We Heard Report #1. What happened since then?
The draft standards are open for public feedback until March 27th, 2022. If you are an individual or a member of an organization, submit your feedback and share this opportunity with your network. If you share our concerns, please raise the issues of implementation, legislation, funding, and for-profit ownership in your feedback.
Working towards legislated national standards
The purpose of the final standards is to provide a basis for assessing long-term care facilities. Accreditation Canada currently uses HSO’s standards to assess 68 per cent of Canada’s facilites. Accreditation is voluntary in every province except Quebec, though even mandatory accreditation failed to protect the latter’s long-term care residents and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
To have real impact across the country, the new standards should be used as a basis for the Liberal’s promised “Safe Long-Term Care Act”. National legislation and federal funding would ensure provinces are accountable to implementing the new standards. However, Ottawa’s minimal funding commitments for long-term care and the delay in getting started on the new legislation could still leave the standards as little more than voluntary guidance.
We need you to tell HSO that we need legislated long-term care standards. Click here to learn more about the draft standards and submit your feedback.