Manitobans supportive of funding significant changes to improve long-term care, survey shows

WINNIPEG — Manitobans and people across the country want major improvements in long-term care, according to the results of an online survey.

The findings by the Angus Reid Institute released Monday, highlight how COVID-19 deaths and infections during the pandemic have shifted people’s views of nursing homes.

“And now I said to my kids, please don’t ever put me in a personal care home. We’ve got to figure out something different unless things change,” said Lisa Prost.

Prost’s dad, 91-year-old Murray Balagus, survived a COVID-19 infection but died in hospital in January due to what the family was told was aspiration pneumonia. Prost said he was rushed to hospital after she found him foaming at the mouth and gurgling in his room at the care home.

“It was so heartbreaking, everything that he went through,” said Prost. “Just brings back tears and I can feel my blood pressure going up and it’s just so hard to believe that happened.”

Prost is now part of a group fighting for improvements in the system and they have the support of the majority of Canadians, according to the Angus Reid survey.

“If there is a lingering darkness it is what happened in long-term care facilities across the country,” said Shachi Kurl, president of the Angus Reid Institute.

It conducted an online survey of 1,503 Canadians in March. Seventy-three per cent of respondents in Manitoba said an overhaul or significant changes are needed, while six per cent say few or no changes are needed.

“Manitobans will certainly be looking for answers from the Pallister government as well people in every province looking to their provincial government saying, ‘Okay what are you going to do about this?’” said Kurl.

A review into the COVID-19 outbreak at Maples care home was commissioned by the province and identified staffing issues as a concern.

The province said in a statement on Monday it has committed to implementing 17 recommendations in an ensuing report to make improvements at all 125 care homes in the province.

In the survey, respondents across the country identified more inspections, enforcement of standards and an increase in the minimum number of staff required to be on duty as their top concerns.

The majority of respondents in every region said more money should be spent on keeping people in their own homes longer. But a significant minority of respondents in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and Atlantic Canada don’t think in-home care could be expanded enough and feel the money would be better spent on long-term care facilities.

As visits resume and restrictions ease, Laurie Cerqueti, CEO of the Saul and Claribel Simkin Centre, hasn’t forgotten about the grief and challenges faced by residents, families and staff.

Cerqueti said while care homes had been pushing for change prior to COVID-19, the pandemic has also highlighted where additional government funding is needed.

She cited additional staffing as a key area.

“Not just more nurses and health-care aides but more recreation staff,” said Cerqueti. “More OT (occupational therapy) and physio (therapy), more social work and spiritual care. We need more staff to be able to support our residents in general.”

Forty-four per cent of respondents to the Angus Reid survey said they “dread” the thought of living in long-term care and 47 per cent said they want to do everything they can to avoid long-term care.

Prost said it’s comforting to know other people want improvements. More than half of respondents said they’re willing to support those changes through an increase in their taxes.

“There’s so much that needs to change,” said Prost. “So that people, when they get older, they know where they’re going and they know they’re going to be cared for.” 

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