Visitation shelters eat up nearly half of province’s share of federal long-term care money
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/08/2022 (289 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Nearly half of Manitoba’s $37.2-million share of federal funding for long-term care homes will cover the cost of pandemic-era visitation shelters — many of which are no longer in use.
Ottawa has agreed to cover the operating expenses — pegged at $18 million in the 2021-22 fiscal year — for approximately 105 external and 57 internal shelters at facilities across Manitoba through the Safe Long-Term Care Fund.
“We need to do everything we can to protect our seniors and everyone else who lives and works in long-term care,” federal Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said during an announcement Thursday afternoon at Fred Douglas Lodge care home alongside provincial Health Minister Audrey Gordon.
The Manitoba government was the last province to sign on to the fund, which set aside $1 billion for provincial and territorial long-term care expenditures in the fall of 2020.
According to the agreement inked between Manitoba and Ottawa, the provincial government estimates $18 million was spent on scheduling software, furnishings, cleaning supplies and human resources to enable visits that occurred in the shelters between April 2021 and March 2022.
In 2020, the province spent nearly that much to add the make-shift visitation shelters to 125 licensed personal-care homes so residents could have safer visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. The modified shipping containers were outfitted with separate entrances, germicidal UVC lighting to kill bacteria, ventilation systems and easy-to-clean surfaces and fixtures.
However, many facility operators are now hoping to have the external containers removed as they are no longer “serving a useful purpose,” the Free Press reported Wednesday. While some care homes are interested in keeping the additional space the containers provide, others have said the expense to keep the shelters in operating condition is prohibitive.
The Manitoba government has offered to transfer ownership of the shelters to care homes at no cost and those that are removed will either be repurposed elsewhere or sold.
Ottawa will also cover $19.2 million spent on additional staffing expenses at long-term facilities in the 2021-22 fiscal year, including overtime.
“Those monies have already gone to work in the system and we thank the federal government for their contribution,” Gordon said.
As of March 2022, the province reported more than 52,000 “opportunities for hand hygiene” were monitored as part of the audit program. Health care staff complied with hand hygiene practises nearly 85 per cent of the time, according to the agreement.
Overtime hours in long term care also accounted for 5.06 per cent of all hours worked in 2021-22, compared to the pre-pandemic baseline of 2.73 per cent.
Additional expenses incurred by for-profit, private long-term care providers were not covered by Ottawa as part of the agreement.
Canadian Union of Public Employees 204 president Debbie Boissonneault said she’s appreciative of Ottawa’s contribution, but said announcing funds that have already been spent amounts to “lip service” as the Manitoba government drags its feet on making meaningful improvements.
So far the union, which represents health-care support staff with the WRHA and Shared Health, is not aware of any new postings for health-care aides, Boissonneault said. In June, the province committed to recruiting and hiring an additional 350 aides on top of a previous commitment to add 200 full-time housekeeping staff and 44 full-time allied health staff to the sector.
“The provincial government has done a lot of lip service saying that they’re going to do all these things, but there’s nothing been enacted, there’s nothing been started,” Boissonneault said, noting there must be consultation with unions to address labour challenges.
“There’s a lot of talk but no action,” she said.
Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said the Tory government should not be boasting about spending for infection prevention and control and staffing while operating funding for personal-care homes remains stagnant.
“Today’s announcement shows, in a nutshell, why Manitoba’s health-care system and seniors care is such a disaster,” the MLA for St. Boniface said.
The long-term care sector continues to be in a truly “desperate state,” Opposition Leader Wab Kinew agreed. The province needs to invest more into facilities over and above the expenses covered by the feds, he said.
“What adds insult to injury is that this is supposed to be one of the big lessons that we learned from the pandemic,” Kinew said. “Everybody seemed to rally around the flag and say we were finally going to fix long-term care for the people who rely on it. If you look at how it’s going in Manitoba today, that’s not been the case under the PCs.”
Danielle Da Silva
Danielle Da Silva is a general assignment reporter.
Updated on Thursday, August 25, 2022 10:04 PM CDT: Adds photo