As we turn this corner of the COVID-19 pandemic, the future looks bright
By Dr. Michael Guerriere
In long-term care, we are witnessing a turning point in our battle with COVID-19.
We have seen a dramatic decline in the infection rates experienced by Extendicare long-term care homes and Esprit retirement communities and new outbreaks are now a rarity. Despite the significant challenges we faced during the past 18 months, the future of the seniors’ care sector is bright.
As we continue to focus on keeping people safe, and maintain vigilance in our fight against the virus, we are also looking ahead, driven by our mission to create a better future for seniors’ care in Canada.
The tragedy of the pandemic has shone a light on the sector, resulting in major progress on the policy front, heralding a new era of higher staffing levels and modern facilities.
We have advocated for decades to improve quality of care for our residents and clients through more support for our team members and replacement of aging facilities. We welcome the increased focus and policy attention. We are taking action in our own right to create change, guided by engagement with our residents, their families and our teams, with transparency, accountability and measurable results against our goals.
As we turn our sights to the future, Extendicare is making major investments in our people, facilities and technology to grow and enhance our industry-leading services.
During the last year, Extendicare added more than 1,000 new frontline caregivers to our LTC homes. We did this to support enhanced infection control protocols and to fortify our homes against COVID-19 outbreaks.
We have expanded our college partnerships to take advantage of government-funded training programs to add more PSWs and nurses in long term care. This will go a long way toward meeting our needs for the additional caregivers required to meet the new standards in that sector.
We are also making investments to add to our home care team at ParaMed. The in-house training programs we launched last year have graduated approximately 400 new caregivers and we expect to add approximately 600 new caregivers from these programs in 2021.
In parallel with our investments in people, we continue to advance our plan to replace aging infrastructure with new, modern homes that are designed to provide improved functionality, safety and comfort for our residents.
Of the 22 LTC redevelopment projects we have proposed to the Ontario government, requisite beds have been granted for nine so far. After so many years of advocating for replacement of aging facilities, it is gratifying to see this move forward. These first nine projects represent a $500-million investment by Extendicare in the future of long-term care in the province. We are targeting to have six under construction by the end of 2022, with the other three planned to start in 2023.
Construction is underway on the first two homes in Sudbury and Kingston. These will soon be joined by a third project in Ottawa.
We continue to encourage Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta to put programs in place to enable redevelopment of older homes in those provinces.
On the innovation front, Extendicare is working collaboratively with other health providers to achieve optimal outcomes for our residents and clients.
For example, in May we launched a transitional care unit in partnership with the Ottawa Hospital. This unit, situated on the top floor of our West End Villa home, is staffed by the hospital to provide a higher level of care, enabling people who otherwise would not be able to leave the hospital to transition into the community. Every resident in that home benefits from the care of the academic family practice team at the Ottawa Hospital. This is the type of win-win scenario we can achieve when private and public operators work together for the betterment of the health system.
Although we are emerging from a very traumatic year in our history, we look to the future with a renewed sense of optimism of what we will be able to achieve for seniors in Canada.
While we are extremely encouraged by the impact of vaccinations and the lower COVID-19 infection, we know that we cannot let our guard down until this virus is no longer a threat to the people we care for.
At the same time, we are actively working to create a better future — investing in our people, in new homes and in technology to provide state of the art services to meet the needs of our residents and clients. Our scope of services in long-term care, homecare and retirement living gives us a unique platform for leadership and innovation.
We look forward to playing our part to build a better future for seniors across Canada.