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Health Coalition calls for immediate action on ‘profound’ COVID-19 long-term care crisis

Posted: January 24, 2021

(January 23, 2021)

By: Sydenham Current Staff, Sydenham Current

The Ontario Health Coalition is calling for immediate action from the Province of Ontario to address the “profound” crisis impacting long-term care in Ontario, amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

During a press conference on Friday, Ontario Health Coalition officials said critical staffing and care shortages, unsafe conditions, the devastating spread of COVID-19 and escalating death rates in Ontario’s long-term care homes require immediate attention.

“At this point, long-term care residents in Ontario are dying as a result of COVID-19 at the rate of one person per hour,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, in a press release.

“There are thousands of staff who are off sick, some of whom take months to recover, some of whom never return. The staffing and care crisis is profound. To Premier Ford, if this does not constitute a crisis, what does?”

Health Coalition officials say 100 organizations, representing more than one-million families of loved ones in long term care, residents, care workers, health professionals, advocacy groups, seniors’ groups and community groups, joined them during the press conference, which was held virtually.

“Elderly and disabled people require a lot intervention especially emotional support during COVID-19,” Wallaceburg-Walpole Island Health Coalition officials said in a press release.

“When their families cannot see them, it is critical. Being isolated in rooms for weeks and weeks creates a crisis to their wellbeing.”

Mehra said the 100 groups and families are speaking with one voice when they took issue with comments made by Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton, who said there is no long-term care homes with a staffing crisis.

The Ontario Health Coalition is calling for:

– Immediate staff recruitment drive like the Quebec government did in June to recruit the thousands of staff needed, with fast-track intensive paid training, improved wages & working conditions to retain staff.

– Military support for the long-term care homes in crisis where local hospital teams are not available to come in.

– Provincial government action to enforce safety and infection control practices in long-term care homes. This means inspections, intervention at a low threshold of COVID cases, real enforcement.

“How heartbreaking it is to hear seniors call for help for toileting, to call for a drink of water, or to call for human contact,” Chatham-Kent Health Coalition officials said in a press release.

“We are obligated to ensure that seniors are cared for with respect, which means proper staffing numbers and mix. We are experiencing the worst staffing crisis in Ontario’s history, and it must be fixed now.”

Sarnia Lambton Health Coalition officials added: “The glaring inadequacies in long-term care have been brought to light with the COVID-19 health crisis. It is time to place our vulnerable elderly over profit. Please put the needed dollars into adequate staffing, training and a living wage for our unsung heroes, the PSWs, so that they can provide the care that they so desperately want to give, but don’t have the time to do.”

Mehra said of the 257 long-term care homes currently in outbreak, 99 are in large outbreak, with 10 residents and staff with COVID-19, adding that there are 75 long-term care homes in the second wave that have had more than one in every four residents infected.

Mehra said the number of residents and staff who contract COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes in the second wave is escalating by 1,260 to 1,500 each week.

The Ontario Health Coalition is also planning a Live virtual protest on Friday, January 29, 2021 from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. More details, here.

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