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BLOG: If we do not protest that nothing has changed in long-term care, who are we as a society?

Posted: October 1, 2021

(October 1, 2021)

It has been more than a year since the military report exposed, to the horror of Canadians, the state of Ontario’s long-term care (LTC). The report lent credence to decades of work by the Ontario Health Coalition exposing insufficient care, safety issues and lack of accountability. Despite massive media coverage through the pandemic, and despite promises and emotional press conferences by Doug Ford, there has been no improvement in the understaffing and care crisis.

Without staff there is no care, and staffing shortages have been critical since before the pandemic started. During the pandemic, we lost more than 30% of the already critically-short staff force. In long-term care, complaints about severe exploitation of staff have been mounting for years but strikes are illegal. During the pandemic, staff voted with their feet and left in droves.

For-profit operators have taken their profits throughout the pandemic yet have not been held accountable to actually provide the safety and care for which they are funded. Nor have they been required to address the crushing workloads, safety issues, and offer competitive wages and working conditions sufficient to attract enough staff to do the work.

In fact, the Ford government passed legislation last fall to shield the operators from liability for their negligence. It has continued to fund empty beds for operators without requiring them to increase actual care levels. It deregulated existing standards to enable LTC corporations to replace PSWs with untrained staff and forgo the requirement to have even one single Registered Nurse at all times.  Many announced initiatives that sounded good in press conferences have been left to the discretion of LTC operators without any accountability or enforcement. There have been numerous staff in the Ford government, as well as former leaders and key advisors to Ford and the Ontario Conservative Party, that have come from- or gone to- the for-profit long-term care industry, or have lobbied for them.

In truth, there has been no accountability for the horrors that we continue to see. Not one long-term care home has been fined. Since it took office, the Ford government has been sitting on the power to fine the home operators– which was passed by the previous government– and has failed to enact it. Annual comprehensive surprise inspections of each home, discontinued by the Ford government after it took power, have not been reinstated. The Ford government has also been sitting on a passed amendment enabling them to suspend licenses of bad operators. They have never enacted that provision either. Not one single long-term care operator has lost its license. In fact, now the Ford government is proposing to give new 30-year licenses and even expansions to for-profit operators with horrific records.

The new Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips is proposing to amend the LTC law and bring in a new Long-Term Care Homes Act perhaps as early as next week. Yet the government has refused to consult with key public interest advocates, and has consistently failed to enforce the already existent strong provisions in the current Act. The Coalition is extremely concerned, warning that there is a high risk that the Ford government will make the Act worse and give more rewards to the for-profits.

The Ontario Health Coalition has called for cross-province protests on Monday, the day that the Ontario Legislature is scheduled to open.

More than 3,800 human beings who were long-term care residents died in the last year and a half from COVID-19 alone. Many of those deaths were preventable. Untold numbers more died of negligence — dehydration, starvation, depression and loneliness, failure to provide their clinical care needs and so on. What has happened has indelibly marked the souls of their families and all who care about them.

If we don’t protest that nothing has changed in the face of mass casualty, mass suffering, then who are we as a society?

Please join us on October 4 and send a message that cannot be ignored.

The demands are clear and the Coalition will not accept any more empty words and broken promises:

  • Immediate action to fast-track increases in care levels and staffing to meet residents’ care needs;
  • Enforcement of care standards through reinstatement of annual surprise inspections, and real accountability through fines, loss of license for repeated non-compliance. Repeal the Act shielding LTC operators from lawsuits for negligence;
  • End for-profit LTC, and;
  • Ensure the human rights of LTC residents are upheld, including an end to unlawful detention, isolation and ensure full access to caregivers and families.