Legionnaires’ cases strain Ontario’s overcrowded long-term care system

Toronto hospital’s COVID rate at 22.9%, not enough to fix hospital budget issue, but clinics know how to provide long-term care Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott took aim at clinic-run long-term care homes, while…

Legionnaires' cases strain Ontario's overcrowded long-term care system

Toronto hospital’s COVID rate at 22.9%, not enough to fix hospital budget issue, but clinics know how to provide long-term care

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott took aim at clinic-run long-term care homes, while apologizing for new cases of Legionnaires’ disease found in the more than 100 residences across the province.

The province reported 711 new cases of Legionnaires’ disease since October, exceeding a new standard set in the past few years.

Of those, 179 came from long-term care homes. In the first two weeks of May, a total of 74 cases, or the highest amount ever seen in the province, were reported at the expense of 86 clinic-operated homes.

Elliott said the new measures would allow for the redesign of some long-term care homes, and will also ensure the Canadian health agency officially registers the clinics as responsible entities in order to provide long-term care in Ontario.

But Ontario’s long-term care system is so overwhelmed with an existing backlog of 50,000 long-term care admissions that the recent rise in cases are not a sign of a major need for a fix, critics argued.

Several clinics have fired employees suspected of leaving dry mould in their homes to create the deadly disease; the Ontario Nurses’ Association estimated that since the CDC first reported the disease to the public, 84 clinics had laid off staff, while $270m have been added to the long-term care budget.

“We’re getting their attention to the problem,” said Surya Subramanian, regional director of new operations for the Ontario Long Term Care Association. “Our issue is being funded for the services it should be delivered. Clinics know what they do so they can run and keep their homes clean. The long-term care system doesn’t have the same authority to address those things.”

In their initial reactions to the uptick in cases, the government promised to investigate, issue technical corrections and “stretch the resources available to address” the problem.

Of the newly confirmed cases, 63% were residents of long-term care homes, 14% were residents of the province’s community care and 14% were from clinics that often have the largest collections of long-term care beds.

Alex Schadenberg, executive director of the advocacy group Environmental Defence, believes the whole system needs a good fix.

“This is a great example of where technical fixes will ultimately fail,” he said. “We need good use of the building codes, which require these facilities to have the expertise to wash and sanitize the water and disinfect equipment, and we need a longer-term funding plan to invest in the underlying infrastructure that services older people.”

The year 2011 is notorious for long-term care home deaths across the U.S., and the problems are as fresh in Ontario as they are on the other side of the continent.

Among the most tragic of the stories is that of Frank Litwin, a man whose prolonged thirst turned fatal after years in a deluged apartment building that had been declared an infirmary but became an overcrowded apartment building by the time his last case was reported in 2010.

Leave a Comment