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Oakville protesters demand more help for long term care homes as Ontario enters second COVID wave

Posted: October 16, 2020

(October 15, 2020)

By: David Lea, Oakville Beaver

Ontario’s long-term care homes need more staff who have the tools they need to keep COVID-19 out.

These were among the demands made during a protest outside Oakville MPP Stephen Crawford’s office on Thursday, Oct. 8.

The protest was part of a day of action organized by the Ontario Health Coalition.

The public health care advocacy group said more than 1,900 people have died in Ontario’s long-term care homes from COVID-19.

The group warned more will follow if the Ford government does not take immediate action.

“We are now entering the second wave of the pandemic,” said Ontario Health Coalition representative Mervyn Russell.

“Despite having had from March through September to ensure long-term care homes are fully prepared for the second wave, nothing, as yet, has actually happened.”

Russell argued efforts to make long-term care homes profitable have resulted in situations where multiple residents share a room and where part-time staff divide their time between several long-term care homes.

He said these practices left long-term care homes vulnerable following the arrival of COVID-19.

Russell said he and the Ontario Health Coalition want to see more trained personal service workers and registered nurses in full-time jobs at attractive levels of pay at long-term care homes.

Protective clothing for all staff when dealing with infected persons and a legislated requirement of at least four hours of personal care for each long-term care resident per day were other demands Russell listed.

He said he also wants to see separate rooms for each resident and rooms to quarantine infected persons.

Ultimately Russell said long-term care should become part of the Public Health Service under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP).

When reached for comment John Ferko, Legislative Assistant to MPP Crawford, said the provincial government is committed to long-term care.

“We have increased funding with a $72 million increase last year and an $80 million increase this year. In the summer, our government announced $1.75 billion in funding for long-term care to build capacity. We are taking real action for long-term care to build more beds and improve the conditions,” said Ferko.

“We also provided $461 million to help give 50,000 personal support workers a pay increase of $3 per hour. We invested $540 million as part of our Fall Preparedness Plan to ensure homes were equipped to deal with subsequent waves of COVID-19. This funding is used for training, PPE supplies, and more staffing. At the onset in March, we created a $243 million fund to support additional surge capacity in homes while supporting 24/7 screening, more staffing and supplies, and equipment to help with prevention and containment of this COVID-19 outbreak.”

Ferko said the Province has also committed to a non-partisan independent commission to provide the government with guidance on how to better protect long-term care home residents and staff from future outbreaks.

He said the commission has started its work and will report back by April 2021.

Russell argued the recent funding announced by Ford is inadequate given previous cuts he has made to health care in Ontario.

Those present at the protest also heard from local resident Linda Love who talked about her mother’s four-year experience in a London long-term care home, which began in 2015.

Love made it clear there were significant problems in Ontario long-term care homes well before COVID-19 noting she witnessed negligence, chronic understaffing and significant supply shortages, especially related to bedding and incontinence supplies.

Local law clerk Michael Reid, whose law firm Will Davidson is currently representing the families of 280 long-term care homes residents who died of COVID-19, also spoke during the protest.

“I have discussed this with a number of families and the consensus is that for-profit long-term care homes should be a thing of the past,” said Reid.

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