Members of the committee, I want to start by thanking you for inviting me to appear before you today to discuss Canada’s long-term care sector.
My name is Jodi Hall, and I am the CEO of the Canadian Association for Long Term Care. CALTC is committed to ensuring quality long-term care for all, and we advocate on behalf of seniors in long-term care homes and our members. Our members include many of the provincial long-term care associations and a range of long-term care operators from non-profit, faith-based, and private corporations.
CALTC appreciates that the spirit of the proposed bill is to protect vulnerable adults, and we support the introduction of legislation that would address elder abuse in Canada. However, the bill before the committee does not accomplish that. If it were to pass in its current form, I believe it is likely to have a devastating impact on the long-term care sector throughout the country.
Long-term care homes are currently facing a number of issues that impact their ability to be sustainable. First, the health human resources crisis is a critical challenge. The latest data from Statistics Canada from the final quarter of 2022 notes that there are over 38,000 vacant positions in Canada in long-term care homes. This is more than double the number of vacancies in 2019.
Provinces are making investments in long-term care, and the leadership and frontline teams in long-term care homes remain dedicated to providing high-quality resident care every day. However, they are doing so with limited resources, and many are in homes that have aging infrastructure.
Our sector needs support. We face significant, systemic issues, including widespread staffing shortages, aging infrastructure and chronic underfunding. These are not new issues. Decades of underinvestment laid the foundation for the perfect storm, which painfully played out through the pandemic and has left homes to continue to struggle today.
In the last election, the government committed to investing $9 billion in long-term care over five years. Unfortunately, we are still waiting for that commitment to be realized. These investments could be used to help support the recruitment of staff, to increase our standards of care and to invest in the much-needed infrastructure that's required.
While long-term care has received more attention as of late, we have not, as a country, come together to talk about creating a sustainable long-term care sector. In the next 15 years, there will be another 10 million seniors in Canada. We need to address the questions around long-term care sustainability, but today we are here to address Bill C-295.
CALTC members are unequivocal in our denunciation of elder abuse in all forms. This bill that has the potential to have a devastating impact on long-term care homes while not addressing the multi-faceted considerations that are needed for elder abuse legislation in Canada.
As well, “manager” is so broadly defined within this bill that it includes almost all long-term care staff. As it stands, this bill focuses on employees in long-term care and only in long-term care, as other settings—for example, a hospital—that provide similar care with similar employees, often to those who are waiting to be admitted to a long-term care home, are not noted.
We believe that this will further increase the challenges around recruitment and retention. Creating further obstacles to recruitment and retention for long-term care is not the way to improve quality or safety in the homes.
All levels of government have the opportunity to work with the long-term care sector to build a resilient path forward. Unfortunately, I believe the bill as presented does not take advantage of that opportunity. Moving forward, the government should launch inclusive consultations with long-term care residents, families, providers and others in the health care system to identify existing gaps in elder abuse protections and how best to effectively address them without causing unintentional impacts, as this private member’s bill will do.
If the committee should choose to proceed with the bill, we ask that at the very least the scope of the bill be not limited to long-term care facilities and long-term care managers but be refocused on all health care settings and all health care professionals so as to not result in inequities in recruitment and retention being directed at long-term care homes alone.
I thank you for the opportunity to speak, and I'm happy to take questions.