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Long-term care homes unprepared for second wave, local health advocate says

Posted: October 1, 2020

(September 30, 2020)

By: Cathy Dobson, The Sarnia Journal

The Ford government has done nothing to prepare Ontario’s long-term care homes for a second wave of COVID-19 infections, says the chairperson of the Sarnia Lambton Health Coalition.

Shirley Roebuck said the second wave has arrived, yet the province isn’t taking action to avoid the devastation in long-term care that occurred earlier this year.

About 1,850 residents in Ontario’s long-term care system and eight staff members have died from COVID-19. In Sarnia-Lambton, outbreaks in senior facilities account for 16 of the county’s 25 deaths to date.

“Our priority is to get government to intercede and make sure there are enough staff and that they are paid properly,” Roebuck said.

“After the first wave, a lot of PSWs (personal support workers) and RNs (registered nurses) resigned from long-term care. They were exhausted by COVID-19 and afraid.

“Nothing has been done to address the shortage of staff,” she said.

Senior infectious-disease doctors and advocates like Roebuck are warning senior facilities still lack basic resources to combat COVID-19 outbreaks. The Ontario Health Coalition is calling for the hiring of infection prevention and control specialists, and the provision of adequate personal protective equipment.

“The Sarnia Lambton Health Coalition is worried about what is going to happen in this next wave,” Roebuck said.

“Severe staffing shortages mean that sometimes there are two PSWs to care for 40 people. Long before the pandemic, it was widely known to anyone in long-term care and their families, that staffing levels were not great.

“The provincial government said they’d do something, and they’ve done nothing,” she said. It’s almost too late.”

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