Long-term care homes and retirement residences are becoming major points of concern for public health officials as COVID-19 continues to spread.
Several deaths linked to the virus have occurred at long-term care facilities, including Canada's first confirmed COVID-19 related death in B.C., as well as a major outbreak in Bobcaygeon, Ontario, where more than a dozen residents have died.
Two residents of an Ottawa retirement home have died of COVID-19 complications.
There have also been concerns about the supply of personal protective equipment in long-term care homes. A whistleblower told CTV News some managers are stockpiling and saving gear instead of giving it out to personal support workers and other staff.
Speaking on CTV Morning Live, Nathalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition, says families might want to consider removing family members from care homes if they can.
"If there was a way that people can safely take care of their loved one, I would be considering it," she said. "Some people, there's just no way; their care needs are too high."
The Ontario Health Coalition is an advocacy group that advocates for strengthening public health care and is opposed to privatization.
Mehra is calling on the Ontario government to improve services at long-term care homes.
"We need the government to step up and help recruit staff immediately," she said. "It should have started a long time ago but, getting real, we all knew outbreaks were going to happen in the homes. It needs to start now."
There are different risks at home: Etches
Speaking on Newstalk 580 CFRA's "The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll", Ottawa's medical officer of health, Dr. Vera Etches, said bringing a relative home carries its own share of risks.
"The thing about taking someone out of a long-term care home right now is that if they want to return to the long-term care home, that may not always be possible," Dr. Etches said. "If someone takes somebody home from a long-term care home that has an outbreak, they're definitely not allowed to be readmitted."
Dr. Etches added those relatives would need to be self-isolated in the home, and family members would have to take precautions.
"Also, family members may be going out into the community and bringing the infection back into the home as well," she said.
Dr. Etches said all residents and staff at long-term care homes are being screened for COVID-19 symptoms every day and anyone coming in from outside the home must wear a mask while inside.
"Homes can be harder for physical distancing but they're being asked to implement that as much as they can now," she said. "People recognize this is the most vulnerable population that we need to do everything to protect."