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Health coalitions disappointed by lack of action by MPPs regarding long-term-care crisis

Posted: June 29, 2021

(June 28, 2021)

By: Catherine Whitnall, Peterborough Examiner Reporter

When it comes to conditions in area long-term-care facilities, it’s not just a case of being in the same boat, but rather the same storm as those across the province.

The information comes as no surprise to three local health coalitions that recently presented results from a survey of front-line health workers in Northumberland, Peterborough and Kawartha Lakes.

“Chronic underfunding and privatization of health care have had an increasingly negative impact, particularly in long-term care, as has been made painfully obvious during COVID. Decades of underfunding, understaffing, poor working conditions, high levels of violence and a focus on profits over quality care have eroded Canada’s system of long-term care to the breaking point, leaving us tragically unprepared to protect the lives of our most vulnerable,” stated Linda Mackenzie-Nicholas from the Northumberland Health Coalition.

Despite this, Mackenzie-Nicholas said that letters sent to local MPPs on March 29, expressing the groups’ concerns, received “minimal response at best.” By May 26, the group reported that MPPs in Peterborough and Northumberland either responded to the letter or acknowledged its receipt; nothing was received from Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock MPP Laurie Scott.

The three area coalitions call on the Ontario government to implement the following:

  • End for-profit long-term-care homes;
  •  Follow through on the promise to hire additional qualified staff without fast-tracking undertrained students or reducing qualifications;
  • Ensure all LTC residents receive at least the minimum four hours of direct hands-on care per day promised;
  • Set a minimum pay standard, consistent with the hospital sector, for front-line LTC staff that includes not only personal support workers and other medical professionals, but also cleaning, food service and administrative staff;
  • Ensure that a minimum of 70 per cent of staff at each LTC home are full-time.

“Those in power have ignored strong criticisms of the living and labour conditions in Canada’s LTC system for decades. But the research is unambiguous: for-profit facilities offer comparatively substandard care,” stated Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition co-chair Bonnie Kennedy. “In fact, the CMA (Canadian Medical Association) recommended a transition away from private facilities as far back as 1984. It should come as no surprise that LTC homes were woefully unprepared to survive the impact of the virus.”

The group notes the survey results underscore this emphatically.

Of those surveyed, 76 per cent said they work short-staffed daily while 12 per cent said they worked short-staffed half of the time. Close to 30 per cent said staffing levels at their workplace have returned to pre-pandemic levels. Increased staffing was listed by 70 per cent of respondents as the biggest issue that needs to be resolved in order to provide full-service delivery to residents.

Up to 35,000 additional front-line workers are needed to accomplish this, said Ontario Health Coalition board member Charlene Avon. She noted a normal year sees 6,000 new personal support workers (PSWs) trained. The province’s move to fast-track 8,000 PSWs this year is “clearly not enough.”

While adequate staffing is a big piece of the puzzle, accommodating those in need of long-term care is just as crucial, said Avon, noting that between 34,000 and 38,000 more beds are needed “right now.”

“We have waiting lists that are anywhere from one year to as much as four years,” said Avon. “People are dying in that wait time.”

Peterborough Health Coalition spokesperson Roy Brady stated the groups are making every effort to “bring and hold the public’s attention to an extremely important issue that has been exacerbated by a pandemic that has changed everything.”

“This issue has been around for a long time and much has been promised but not delivered — time is against us,” he added.

For more information and to view the survey, visit www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca/index.php/report-survey-taken-by-kawartha-lakes-health-coalition-northumberland-health-coalition-and-the-peterborough-health-coalition.

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