Omicron and Long-Term Care systems, video and summary of an informal discussion of international experiences (24th January 2022)

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.


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