I learned last week that in Ontario and Quebec the epicentre of Canada’s Covid-19 19 pandemic, 28 Canadian soldiers have contracted Covid-19 while working in Long Term Care facilities. Today there was horrific news out of Ontario about 5 of those facilities. I am not commenting yet on them since the news is just coming out. Long-term care facilities have been hit hard in Canada. So hard that 82% of Canadian deaths from Covid-19 have occurred in long term care facilities. That is the first sin. After all these are the most vulnerable people in the country and they are in our care. You and I and the government are responsible for them. How could we have left them so vulnerable? Think about that percentage. It is stunning.
Of course personal support workers in those facilities are naturally at risk too. My son Pat’s partner Tammy works courageously in one of those facilities. And she is not well paid to do that work. I have frequently said, she does the most important work in our family. She works with adult mentally challenged men in a group home. These men are completely at the mercy of their support workers, like Tammy. And they do not understand the concept of social distancing. They just understand what they need.
Lee Berthiaume reported on one of those facilities in Montreal where soldiers were tending to the patients. In that facility, The Winnipeg Free Press reported last week, “residents had been nearly abandoned by staff.” I do not want to criticize the staff because I do not know what situation they were caught in, but to think about long term care residents being abandoned by staff is shocking. Apparently the staff were “overwhelmed”…providing medical assistance but also serving food and assisting with resident’s basic needs.”
Now we must add the case of the soldiers. It seems they are getting overwhelmed as well. Nearly 1,700 military personnel are serving in such facilities because regular staff can’t handle it. But what about the soldiers? 28 of them have already contracted Covid-19. Are they trained for this? They are accustomed to taking risks, but this is an entirely unexpected risk. I just hope we are doing the right thing when we send them into such situations. But what else could we do when the facilities are abandoned by staff?