This was an informal webinar to discuss the impacts of the spread of the Omicron variant in Long-Term Care systems, with presentations from Italy (Elisabetta Notarnicola), Sweden (Marta Szebehely), Austria (Kai Leichsering), Malta (Maria-Aurora Fenech), Luxembourg (Joel Mossong), United States (Greg Arling and Nerina Girasol), Germany (Thomas Fischer), Japan (Margarita Estevez-Abe), England (Nina Hemmings), France (Camille Oung), Norway (Frode F. Jacobsen) and Spain (Sara Ulla Diez).
Summary of international experiences described:
- Large increases in numbers of infections in care homes linked to the Omicron variant, accompanied by small increases in mortality and hospitalisations in some countries.
- Grave concerns about staff shortages, with absences due to Omicron compounding an already precarious situation attributed to structural issues that have resulted in the lack of attractiveness of Long-Term Care sector jobs compared to health care and other sectors. Staff burnout has also been a factor. In some countries, this has been worsened by migration of LTC workers to countries that offer higher levels of pay.
- Scepticism about the success of “surge staffing” measures to alleviate the staffing shortages, highlighting the importance of policy measures that address the long-standing problems in LTC workforce such as low pay and poor working conditions. Some countries have raised pay already for some times of staff.
- Very different approaches to visiting, ranging from a policy of no restrictions at all in Norway and Sweden to very restrictive approaches in Italy and Malta.
- In some countries, concerns about low vaccination or booster rates among staff.
- Testing capacity is not able to keep up with demand.
- Concerns on whether the current isolation requirements for people living in care homes and their impact on wellbeing are proportionate to the severity of the disease.
- Very little information and data about the situation for people who use care at home in many countries.
- Concern that lessons from previous waves have not been learnt.