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Far too many deaths in LTC

Posted: February 4, 2021

(February 3, 2021)

By: Colin MacKay, Belleville Intelligencer (Print Edition)

Two revelations have stood out over the past year due to COVID-19. The most notable revelation has been Long Term Care (LTC) homes. Far too many deaths have occurred in these homes. While the other revelation, which is not that surprising, students learn best at an in-school setting. Or put another way, remote learning has not gone particularly well for a number of reasons.

Deaths at LTC homes have been an issue right from the beginning of this pandemic. Too many people within confined spaces are responsible for the majority of virus outbreaks. Once any of the residents contracted the virus, the odds increased tremendously that staff too would contract the virus. Conditions would then deteriorate due to staffing shortages. Not paying Personal Service Workers (PSW’s) acceptable wages is an issue towards lack of staffing. As well, regulations were cut so that it was no longer necessary to have at least one Registered Nurse on 24/7. Training requirements were decreased too. In essence, staffing standards have been cut to the bone. This all plays a factor when dealing with a highly contagious virus.

The number of inspections of LTC home have been cut and surprise inspections by the for-profit LTC homes discouraged. These inspections are called Resident Quality Inspections (RQI’s). The Ontario Health Coalition released these facts, ‘most of the provinces 626 LTC homes received full RQI’s in 2015,2016,2017, but that number dropped to half in 2018 and only 9 were done in 2019.’A lot of corners have been cut to reduce costs. Residents have been victims of these cuts. Too many have paid with their lives.

The biggest issue by far appears to be proper staffing. The Ontario Health Coalition states, ‘One of the most egregious failures throughout the COVID-19 pandemic has been the refusal by the provincial government to take action to recruit staff and improve conditions so that they can be retained to provide care. Care and infection control cannot happen without enough staff.’In fairness, the government provided temporary incentives, but obviously this was far from sufficient. Other provinces increased permanent pay for PSW’s, and improved their working conditions considerably, and, in some cases, paid for their advanced training.

In-school learning has been found to be far better for students. This comes as no surprise. Isolated at home versus being at schools with their peers is beneficial for social interaction. Chatting and helping each other is easier at school. Improved social skills are terribly important. Students learn how to argue, flirt, discuss, disagree, and find common connections. Developing the ability to interact with each other is important. As well, having a friend to talk to can remove anxiety, and takes away the isolation that is prevalent with virtual learning. In-school is beneficial to students for numerous reasons.

Viewing a screen for six hours a day is not fun. In class teaching is superior. A teacher can ‘read’the room, and decide if students are befuddled, engaged or simply not on task determining if further explanations are warranted. As well, students can ask questions to a teacher. A discussion may ensue which would provide opportunities for critical thinking skills. In a virtual classroom, not as likely.

Using a screen, having a working microphone and camera, with a teacher using Google Meets or whatever is considered acceptable for virtual learning, its just not as good. As well, not everyone has access to technology at the same level. Internet access, wi-fi connections vary across the province. Students at school is closer to being equitable.

LTC home residents must be looked after with the provincial government allocating enough

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