HALIFAX -- As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, there are growing calls for all levels of government to do more to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

"The situation at Northwood is absolutely tragic,” said Michelle van Beusekom. ”It's a repetition of what we've seen in other parts of the country, in Ontario, in Quebec and also in B.C.”

Van Beusekom is one of the organizers of an online petition calling on the federal and provincial governments to fund and implement best practices across long-term care homes in Canada.

Both of her parents are in long-term care in Ontario and both have tested positive for COVID-19.

“Eighty per cent of the deaths across the country related to COVID are in long-term care; it's a pattern that's unfolding across the country and it's tragic and it shouldn't be happening,” said van Beusekom.

“It didn't need to happen. We will have more cases like this if there isn't money injected into this and don't have co-ordinated strategy.”

The petition is calling for several things, including providing and ensuring the use of proper personal protective equipment for all staff, isolating all confirmed cases and transferring them off-site to COVID-19-ready wards or facilities, and ensuring appropriate staffing levels in all long-term care facilities.

“What we’re asking for is emergency funding to deal with the critical situation in long-term care and a coordinated strategy,” she said.

More than 43,500 people have signed the petition as of 4 p.m. Thursday.

Death toll rises at Northwood

To date, 38 of the 44 deaths linked to the COVID-19 virus in Nova Scotia have occurred at the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax.

With each passing day, there are increased calls for answers into how the nursing home became the epicenter of the epidemic in Nova Scotia.

“For years, front-line workers, residents, family members, health experts and administrators have raised concerns about systemic issues within long-term care,” said Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill.

“Prior to COVID-19, there were legitimate concerns about staff shortages, insufficient staffing levels, lack of long-term care spaces, and outdated facilities. Now, everyone can see that we must come at these issues with the urgency they deserve.”

When the current outbreak of COVID-19 is contained, Burrill wants to see a public inquiry into the COVID-19 outbreak at Northwood. 

“Public health officials, administrators, and front-line staff are doing their best in responding to the pandemic,” said Burrill. “At the same time, residents of our long-term care facilities have been significantly affected by COVID-19, and we need to take stock of the situation and ensure we support everyone involved now and into the future.”

“I think there needs to be major changes in long-term care, home care and acute care," said Jason MacLean, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.

"And I think everything has been exposed through the COVID-19 pandemic and what I think we need to do is sit back when we can get everything all together, sit back, do a public review into what needs to be tightened up and what needs to be fixed so we don’t run into these issues again."