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OTTAWA — Jane Sustrik recalls the fear that enveloped her in the early months of the pandemic.

Dozens of residents from his mother’s home in Edmonton died from COVID-19, as Sustrik read reports about the plight of conditions in long-term care homes across the country and the number of residents falling victim to the virus.

Sustrik was vice president of the United Nurses of Alberta before leaving her job to become a full-time caregiver for her mother in an orphanage. That was before COVID-19 hit.

At that time he remembers saying, “My greatest fear is that we will learn nothing from this.”

“I feel like now we have learned a lot from COVID,” Sustrik said in a recent interview. “But we haven’t done anything with it.”

The team of experts has been working since last year to develop national long-term care standards to reflect the hard-earned lessons of the pandemic and offer Canadians better and safer lives in congregated homes.

They’re now putting the finishing touches on the two sets of standards, but the question remains what the federal government wants to do once they’re done.

The Health Standards Organization and the CSA Group – formerly the Canadian Standards Association – are expected to approve the final version of the standards in a matter of weeks and they will be released to the public in December.

Dr. Samir Sinha, who heads HSO’s panel of experts on long-term care, said he had spoken to federal ministers on file who had expressed enthusiasm about the work so far but would not commit to mandated standards until they were set. resolved.

Liberals pledged to legislate security in long-term care during the last election, and that promise is a condition of the party’s supply and trust agreement with the NDP to prevent elections before 2025.

The Office of Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos referred to questions about the government’s pledge to Health Canada, which would not say whether the government plans to put the legislation in the House of Commons this fall.

“We want to see this action immediately,” NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said at a press conference Thursday. “We need to see that the standard of care is set and we want to see it implemented as quickly as possible.”

The agreement between the two parties does not include a timeline for the new law, or any specifics on what it should contain.

Sustrik says better standards are urgently needed. People are already becoming satisfied with long-term care conditions, even as the outbreak continues at home, he said.

“We’re back where we were before again,” he said. “I feel like nothing happened. So if we can get a decent standard in long-term care, that’s very important.”

The government is setting aside $3 billion in its 2021 budget to help provinces and territories implement the standards when they are completed, and Health Canada said in a statement any legislation would be designed to reflect the province’s jurisdiction over industry.

Sinha and CSA Group committee chair Alex Mihailidis said the standard would be very similar to the draft released earlier this year, with some minor “adjustments”.

This standard focuses on every aspect of life in long-term care, from infection control and prevention, to staff working conditions, food and visitor policies.

The CSA Group received 2,000 feedback on the draft after its release at the start of the year, Mihailidis said, and largely reinforced the approach the committee had taken.

He believes the standards will help curb the transmission of COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks.

“I think there may be differences down the road, obviously if and when standards are implemented,” he said.

This Canadian Press report was first published on August 4, 2022.

Laura Osman, Canadian Press