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Feds silent on enforcement as national long-term care standards get final ‘tweaks’


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By Laura Osman in Ottawa

Jane Sustrik remembers the sense of fear hanging over her in those early months of the pandemic.

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

Sustrik was vice-president of United Nurses of Alberta before leaving her job to be a full-time caregiver to her mom in the congregate home. That was just before COVID-19 hit.

At the time she remembers saying, “My greatest fear is that we’re not going to learn anything from this.”

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

Teams of experts have been working since last year to put together national long-term care standards to reflect those hard-earned pandemic lessons and offer Canadians better and safer lives in congregate homes.

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

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 publicly released in December.

Dr. Samir Sinha, who chairs the HSO’s panel of experts on long-term care, said he’s spoken to the federal ministers on the file who’ve expressed enthusiasm about the work so far but won’t commit to mandating the standards until they are finalized.

The Liberals promised to legislate safety in long-term care during the last election, and that promise is a condition of the party’s supply and confidence agreement with the NDP to prevent an election before 2025.

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

“We want to see action on this immediately,” said NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh at a news conference Thursday. “We need to see that standard of care be legislated and we want to see that implemented as quick as possible.”

The agreement between the two parties doesn’t include a timeline for the new legislation, or any specifics about what it should contain.

Sustrik said better standards are needed immediately. People have already become complacent about long-term care conditions, even as outbreaks continue in the homes, she said.

“We’re back to where we were before again,” she said. “I feel like nothing’s happened. So if we could get some decent standards in long-term care, it’s absolutely vital.”

The government set aside $3 billion in the 2021 budget to help provinces and territories implement the standards when they are complete, and Health Canada said in a statement any legislation will be designed to reflect the provinces’ jurisdiction over the industry.

Sinha and CSA Group’s committee chair Alex Mihailidis say the standards will be very similar to the drafts released earlier this year, with some minor “tweaks.”

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

CSA Group received 2,000 pieces of feedback on the draft after it was released at the beginning of the year, Mihailidis said, and most reinforced the approach the committee was already taking.

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

“I think there could be a difference down the road, obviously if and when the standard is implemented,” he said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 4, 2022.

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WHO member states agree to develop legally-binding pandemic treaty

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Article submitted by The Counter Signal


The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that member states inched closer to developing a legally binding global pandemic treaty.

WHO member states agree to develop legally-binding pandemic treaty.

“I welcome the agreement by @WHO Member States to develop a zero draft of a legally binding #PandemicAccord designed to protect the world from future pandemics and to continue discussions on the draft in February 2023,” said WHO CEO Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The development follows a third meeting from WHO member states to develop a global pandemic treaty. The first meeting was in December 2021, and the second was in March 2022.

It’s unclear how the WHO’s pandemic treaty will affect its 194 member states, including Canada.

The WHO states the global pandemic treaty will determine future pandemic requirements for individual countries, such as lockdowns, and that these requirements will be “legally binding.”

The WHO says the treaty will be a “legal instrument, rooted in the WHO Constitution, designed to protect the world from future pandemics.”

Article 21 of the WHO’s constitution states the WHO has “authority to adopt regulations concerning (a) sanitary and quarantine requirements and other procedures designed to prevent the international spread of disease.”

“Other procedures” presumably include global vaccine passports, which member states have already supported.

However, the WHO also claims the pandemic treaty will “respect sovereignty.”

The draft that resulted from this third meeting includes a provision that reads:

“States have, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and the principles of international law, the sovereign right to determine and manage their approach to public health, notably pandemic prevention, preparedness, response and recovery of health systems pursuant to their own policies and legislation provided that activities within their jurisdiction or control do not cause damage to other States and their peoples.”

Conservative MP Leslyn Lewis has been outspoken regarding the potential impact a global pandemic treaty could have on Canadians.

In April, she said the treaty would allow the WHO to determine what a pandemic is and when one is occurring — even over something non-viral like an obesity crisis.

Earlier this year, the WHO and the German health minister said that countries disobeying regulations dictated by the WHO through their pandemic treaty might need to be sanctioned.

The Counter Signal contacted the WHO for comment but did not receive a response by publication.

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Two deputy chief medical officers resign from their positions with Alberta Health

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Edmonton – Alberta’s two deputy chief medical officers of health are leaving their roles — less than a month after Dr. Deena Hinshaw was removed as the province’s top doctor.

Health Minister Jason Copping confirmed during question period Wednesday that both of the doctors have submitted letters of resignation.

“They are still continuing to work at this point in time,” he said in the legislature. “We are in the process of actually looking to fill those roles.”

A statement from Alberta Health said Dr. Rosana Salvaterra and Dr. Jing Hu, who are listed as public health physicians on the department’s website, have given notice.

When reached by her department email, Salvaterra responded: “Unfortunately, we are not able to comment.”

She later added that she respects and admires both Dr. Hinshaw and Dr. Hu.

“They are brilliant, hard-working, and compassionate public health physicians and I consider myself fortunate to have had the opportunity to work alongside them for these past 14 months.”

Salvaterra, who has extensive public health experience including as the medical officer of health for Peterborough, Ont., joined the office in October 2021.

Her career in public health includes work in “the COVID-19 response, mental health, the opioid response, women’s health, poverty reduction, health equity, community food security and building stronger relationships with First Nations.”

Hu’s out-of-office message said her “last day at work with Alberta Health was Nov. 18, 2022,” and noted she wouldn’t have access to the department email after that date.

She got extensive training in China and at the University of Calgary before joining the health department in January 2020.

Their resignations came within a month of Hinshaw, who became the face of Alberta’s public health response to the COVID-19 pandemic, being removed from her position.

Hinshaw was replaced by Dr. Mark Joffe, a senior executive member of Alberta Health Services, on an interim basis.

“Dr. Joffe will be supported by medical officers of health within AHS, by other staff in the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, and by the Public Health Division,” said the statement from Alberta Health late Wednesday.

“We expect these changes to have no impact on the department’s and Dr. Joffe’s ability to meet the requirements of the Public Health Act.”

Hinshaw’s dismissal didn’t come as a surprise.

Premier Danielle Smith announced on her first day in office in October that she would be replaced.

Smith has made it clear that she blames both Hinshaw and Alberta Health Services for failing to deliver the best advice and care for Albertans as the hospital system came close to buckling in successive waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“A lot of the bad decisions were made by Alberta Health Services on the basis of bad advice from the chief medical officer of health,” Smith told reporters on Oct. 22.

Smith has not placed the blame on front-line doctors and nurses but broadly on AHS senior management. Joffe, while serving as chief medical officer of health, retains his role in AHS senior management as a vice-president responsible for areas in cancer and clinical care.

Hinshaw, an Alberta-trained public health specialist, became a celebrity of sorts in the first wave of the pandemic in the spring of 2020, as she delivered regular, sometimes daily, updates to Albertans on the virus, its spread and methods to contain it.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 7, 2022.

— By Colette Derworiz in Calgary.

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december, 2022

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