Collective action for pandemic response in long-term care

By Jennifer Zelmer and Julie Weir

Despite best efforts, the long-term care (LTC) sector has been devastated by outbreaks of COVID-19. LTC residents accounted for 80 per cent of early COVID-19 related deaths in the country and continue to bear the brunt of the pandemic. Vaccines offer hope but are not a panacea.

It’s imperative we respond in real time, matching the speed and effectiveness of our response to the scale of the challenge and the rapidity with which the virus, science, and pandemic status are evolving. While the challenges facing each home vary, there are common threads. Working together, we can share resources and learning, insight, foresight – as well as offer mutual support.


Nearly 400 LTC and retirement homes from all parts of the country have already joined together to respond via LTC+: Acting on Pandemic Learning Together. Reducing the risk of outbreaks is, of course, a focus, but so is addressing the unintended consequences of pandemic response. Teams are focusing on promising practices in six areas: preparation, prevention, people in the workforce, pandemic response and surge capacity, planning for COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 care, and the presence of family. They can access up to $10,000 in funding to strengthen their pandemic preparedness and response, dedicated coaching with quality improvement and change management experts, as well as peer-to-peer support and virtual learning opportunities.

In addition to connecting evidence with care delivery, the LTC+ program is generating new insights to refine future responses. To do so, it is backed by 14 implementation science research teams who are helping to integrate improvements into everyday practice. The researchers are working with a subset of the LTC+ homes to generate evidence on what interventions are most effective, in what settings and contexts, and why. Their findings will help focus efforts now and spread and scale the most effective approaches in the future, recognizing that many of the issues highlighted by the pandemic are not new and will require sustained attention.

Teams that join LTC+ are not just joining a program, they are joining a community that shares challenges and an ultimate goal to protect their residents, and those who care for them, while continuing to deliver safer, high quality care. With additional investment from the Government of Canada and the CMA Foundation, LTC+ aims to expand to support up to 1,000 homes.

Julie Weir

LTC+ is being delivered by the newly amalgamated organization that brings together the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement and Canadian Patient Safety Institute. LTC+ is supported by partners, including the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council, New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes, Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety and CADTH, and with funding support from the CMA Foundation. The implementation science teams are funded by partners the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, New Brunswick Health Research Foundation, Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation, Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation and Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.

For more information, visit www.cfhi-fcass.ca/LTC

Jennifer Zelmer is President and CEO of the newly amalgamated organization that brings together the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement and Canadian Patient Safety Institute. Julie Weir is Nurse Manager, Infection Prevention and Control, Horizon Health Network and Clinical and Care Consultant with the New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes.