A new analysis released today by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) shows that while Canada’s COVID-19 death rate is relatively low compared to other OECD countries, the proportion of deaths occurring in long-term care (LTC) is double the OECD average. As of May 25, at the country level, LTC residents accounted for 81% of all reported COVID-19 deaths in Canada, compared with an average of 42% in 16 other OECD countries (ranging from less than 10% in Slovenia and Hungary to 66% in Spain). 

This analysis examines Canada’s pandemic experience in LTC and that of other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), focusing on 3 areas: cases and deaths, baseline health system characteristics and policy responses. Please note that there are data limitations when it comes to international comparisons due to differences in COVID-19 testing and reporting practices across countries, as well as in definitions of long-term care.

Key findings: 

  • Compared with the OECD average, Canada had fewer health care workers (nurses and personal support workers) per 100 senior residents of LTC homes in 2017–2018.
  • Countries with centralized regulation and organization of LTC (Australia, Austria, Hungary, Slovenia) were generally associated with lower numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths. 
  • Countries that implemented specific prevention measures targeted to the LTC sector at the same time as their stay-at-home orders and closure of public places (Australia, Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary, Slovenia) had fewer COVID-19 infections and deaths in LTC.

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About CIHI

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) is an independent, not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing essential health information to all Canadians.

CIHI works closely with federal, provincial and territorial partners and stakeholders throughout Canada to gather, package and disseminate information to inform policy, management, care and research, leading to better and more equitable health outcomes for all Canadians. 

Health information has become one of society’s most valuable public goods. For 25 years, CIHI has set the pace on data privacy, security, accessibility and innovation to improve Canada’s health systems. 

CIHI: Better data. Better decisions. Healthier Canadians.

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Alexandra Maheux