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Local health coalitions call for action on LTC, withdrawal of Bill 175

Posted: July 5, 2020

(July 4, 2020)

By: Brian Cross, Windsor Star

Defenders of public health care accuse the Doug Ford government of ignoring the crisis in long-term care and rushing through a bill they say is “a pathway to privatization of the entire health-care system.”

When Bill 175, Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act, was introduced earlier this year, the government described it as a modernization of how home care and community care is delivered, moving it away from a “rigid” and “restrictive” approach.

But on Friday, leaders from the Windsor and Chatham-Kent health coalitions held a joint Zoom news conference to call for the withdrawal of the bill, and for public consultation which they say has been sorely lacking.

“It’s very clear this is about privatization and doing this in the middle of a pandemic, to the vulnerable in the community who need more help, not less, is just horrible,” said Tracey Ramsey, the former Essex NDP MP who co-chairs the Windsor Health Coalition.

Speakers urged citizens to write their MPPs and the Premier to call for the bill’s withdrawal. They argued the government shouldn’t be working on further privatization of the health-care system in the midst of a pandemic, and cited the devastating COVID-19 death rates in privately run long-term care homes compared to publicly run homes like the City of Windsor’s Huron Lodge.

“How can the Ford government even begin to consider increasing privatization at a time when most families haven’t even grieved for the loss of their loved ones?” Ramsey said.

Rather than pushing forward on Bill 175, the government should be de-privatizing long-term care, she said. It’s something that can be done by a willing government, said Ramsey.

“Everyone in this (Zoom) call has someone in their family, their circle, who has experienced the for-profit system and understands the lack that exists there.”

The groups’parent organization, the Ontario Health Coalition, released a study last year describing the “crisis” in long-term care, and the situation has worsened during the pandemic, Ramsey said.

Because numerous staff in the homes have tested positive for COVID-19, they’re staying home in isolation and that has worsened an already bad staffing shortage.

“Any business is based on profit,” said Shirley Roebuck, a former registered nurse who chairs the Chatham-Kent coalition.

“If that’s your priority, you won’t have the priority of having proper staffing, proper food, proper supplies, proper everything.”

Roebuck cited the shocking findings of a Canadian Armed Forces report of five Ontario homes, identifying rotten food, cockroaches and an alarming lack of cleanliness.

“Gosh almighty, folks,” she said. “Our loved ones, our elderly, shouldn’t be dealing with that.”

In a statement, the Ministry of Health said Friday that Bill 175 “in no way enables the privatization of home care.”

The Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act will allow for the delivery of “more innovative models of home and community care” by the Ontario Health Teams being created throughout the province, the ministry said.

“Patients will benefit from primary care, hospitals, home and community care and long-term care providers being able to collaborate directly to provide care that best meets individual care needs.”

The local health coalitions are also concerned about another government bill, Bill 161, which they say will make it much more difficult for families to sue negligent nursing homes.

“I just don’t understand how they’re trying to make these huge changes right now,” Ramsey said, calling for immediate action on long-term care.

She said that staff and families of patients are reporting conditions much worse than before the pandemic hit.

“Overtime is off the charts, agency staff who travel from home to home is more common than ever, shortages are severe across the province,” she said. “We cannot leave people in long-term care homes to feed them, give them water, to care for their health needs, to reposition them and bathe them, without any emotional support,” she said.

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