Public inquiry into long-term care would take too long, says seniors' advocate
VANCOUVER -- While many agree the pandemic has highlighted serious flaws in B.C.'s long-term care system, the province's seniors' advocate is casting doubt on the need for a public inquiry.
Isobel MacKenzie believes changes to how the province provides long-term care are absolutely needed, but that a public inquiry would take too long to conduct. She said the circumstances will be reviewed, however.
“Whether it is what we would call a full blown public inquiry or whether it is looking at what happened and finding out what went wrong, where and why, certainly I believe the minister of health has indicated we are going to be doing that. I know my office will be doing that,” she said.
A number of family members came forward this week to speak about what they described as a disturbing lack of support for seniors at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver. They have been calling for such an inquiry, even as B.C. Premier John Horgan has repeatedly rejected the idea.
The families said they saw seniors' calls for help go unanswered, and residents left in urine-soaked clothing for extended periods of time.
Mackenzie told CTV News one of the biggest issues facing long-term care is inadequate staffing, which impacts everything from feeding to bathing to bathroom use.
“We were seeing the impact of that magnified many times over in Lynn Valley (Care Centre),” MacKenzie said.
She suggested Lynn Valley, the first care home in the country to report a COVID-19 death, became a tragic learning ground.
"From that suffering came some positive outcomes in terms of learning what we could do better in subsequent care homes,” she said.
The MLA for North Vancouver-Seymour, Jane Thornthwaite, agrees that "more could have been done," but also that a public inquiry would take too long to complete.
"We definitely need an independent review," Thornthwaite added. "And it should start immediately."
Of the 186 deaths from COVID-19 in B.C., almost three quarters have been linked to nursing homes.
From staff shortages to care aides infecting residents in multiple homes, efforts in some care facilities clearly failed to stop the spread of the virus.
And there continue to be significant outbreaks at seniors' homes in the province. The most recent is at Holy Family Hospital in Vancouver, where 13 residents have died.
Haro Park lost 11 seniors, and 25 residents died at Langley Lodge, which has had two COVID-19 outbreaks since the start of the pandemic.
“Langley Lodge invites some questions about how did that get so out of control so quickly given what we knew around controls at that point in the pandemic,” MacKenzie said.
Both the seniors' advocate and Thornthwaite agree change is needed.
The MLA also said there's "not enough emphasis on giving seniors the support they need to stay at home as long as they possibly can and then the next issue is an entire revamp on the staffing."
The seniors’ advocate expects her investigation to be complete by the fall, before an anticipated second wave of COVID-19 hits the province.