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Oxford Health Coalition calls on government for improvements to long-term care

Posted: October 15, 2021

(October 14, 2021)

By: Barbara Geernaert

Health-care advocates protested outside Oxford MPP Ernie Hardeman’s Woodstock office last week, calling for better conditions in the province’s long-term care homes.

The Oct. 4 protest, organized by the Oxford Health Coalition, was one of many similar rallies organized across the province by chapters of the Ontario Health Coalition.

Coinciding with the opening of the provincial legislature, the timing could not have been better, said Bryan Smith, chair of the Oxford Health Coalition.

“MPPs are heading to Queens Park today. We want them to see people there and across Ontario who are concerned about the level of care for people in long-term care homes,” Smith said. “People are concerned and many families are suffering as they attend these events all across the province. The first order of business for any government should be the care of our most vulnerable. This should be at the top of the agenda.”

Smith said COVID-19 highlighted the dangers already present in long-term care homes, pointing to a lack of inspections, inadequate levels of care and chronic understaffing.

“If MPP Hardeman were in Oxford today, I’d be asking him why he announced an added allocation of ‘beds’ to the private home in Tavistock rather than to the public or non-profit sector here. I am hoping that the question gets asked of him and every MPP at Queen’s Park today,” Smith said.

The Ontario Long Term Care Association’s CEO, Donna Duncan, said the devastating tragedy of the COVID-19 – and the thousands of pandemic-related deaths of care-homer residents – has shone a light on the long-standing systemic issues in long-term care.

“The Ontario government has made commitments to address these issues, including rebuilding older homes and increasing staffing. There are also changes coming to the Long-Term Care Homes Act, which we are asking be redesigned to allow homes to put the needs and wishes of residents at the centre of care,” Duncan said.

But Smith said the government has not done what it should have done in 2019, when the Ontario Health Coalition produced a report, Situation Critical, that highlighted many of these issues.

“Had the government moved on some of these issues, we would not have seen the suffering and deaths of residents throughout the four waves of the pandemic,” Smith said.

The Situation Critical report outlined the already precarious situation in the province’s longterm care homes.

Some key findings in the report included a 10-year increase in resident-on-resident violence; frequent staff injuries; poor access to long-term care and chronic understaffing.

As a result, the Ontario Health Coalition described today’s longterm care homes are yesteryear’s chronic care and psycho geriatric hospitals, but without the same resources.

According to the coalition, long-term care beds are funded at one-third the rate of chronic-care beds, but house residents that used to be considered chronic care or psychogeriatric care. This, the coalition said, is saving money at the expense of the health and safety of vulnerable residents in long-term care and their care staff.

Smith said there is a need for surprise inspections in long-term care homes.

“The government has not restored surprise inspections. Despite the fact that we’ve identified facilities with problems, inspectors should be going in, making suggestions and then checking in, again. If there is ongoing issues, then the facility should face fines and have their licence revoked. The government has a right to do this, but they don’t.”

Duncan said there are nearly 40,000 people on the wait list for long-term care while the population of Ontario residents 80 and older is expected to double in just 16 years.

“This is a critical moment for change, and it will require everyone working in partnership on solutions to transform the system into one that meets the needs and wishes of Ontarians as they age for generations to come,” Duncan said.

The Oxford Health Coalition invited families attending the protest to bring photos of their loved ones.

“We have a crisis on our hands but, despite the crisis, private long-term care homes continue to pay out salaries and bonuses to their top executives and pay out profits to shareholders rather than putting money into the care, staff and supplies necessary in these facilities. Families are suffering. This is about their loved ones,” Smith said.

“This private matter is intensely public. We should all have a high level of concern for people in long term care.

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