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Protesters demand improvements in long-term care homes

Posted: June 25, 2020

(June 24, 2020)

By: Mark Malone, Chatham Daily News

Chatham-Kent Health Coalition chairperson Shirley Roebuck speaks during a protest about issues in long-term care homes outside MPP Rick Nicholls’s office in Chatham, Ont., on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

Dental hygienist Pat Lambier says she’s seen oral problems in local long-term care homes as appalling as those she faced in Indonesian refugee camps.

“It was like a Third World country,” she said.

Lambier stopped working in Southwestern Ontario homes six or seven years ago, but she said conditions are no better today.

“Nothing’s changed,” she said. “When I hear the COVID stories and I read the reports, I was shocked. I was shocked that nothing has changed in all these years.”

Lambier was among approximately 25 people at a Chatham-Kent Health Coalition protest Wednesday outside the Chatham office of Chatham-Kent––Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls.

They were upset with not only Bill 175 – the Ontario government’s new home and community care act – but also the general condition of the province’s long-term care facilities.

Coalition chairperson Shirley Roebuck criticized Premier Doug Ford’s “total lack of response to the ongoing staffing crisis in long-term care.”

“There have been multiple reports that advocacy groups, such as the Ontario Health Coalition, have published about what’s happening in long-term care: the lack of adequate staffing, the lack of good full-time jobs, etc. They’ve done nothing about it,” she said.

“It took a report from the military, which was a scathing report about the substandard care given to our elderly in numerous nursing homes, which by the way are for-profit private homes.”

There have been 1,683 deaths from COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes, or 64 per cent of the province’s total.

“Why in the name of God would the government really try to push this legislation through when we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic?” Roebuck said in an interview. “Don’t they have enough that they can do?”

Nicholls was at Queen’s Park, but he issued a statement defending Bill 175, The Connecting People to Home and Community Care Act.

The legislation is intended to update home-care services, reduce bureaucratic barriers to receiving care, and give service providers more power, he said.

“Despite what the Ontario Health Coalition is saying, the government and the Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine have consulted with patients, caregivers, providers, workers, health system and academic experts,” Nicholls said.

He added: “We are giving Ontario Health Teams, in partnership with home and community care service providers, the flexibility to develop innovative, integrated delivery models, including care co-ordination. Community services would continue to be directly provided by non-profit organizations in almost all cases.”

The Ontario Health Teams will take over the home and community care handled by Local Health Integrated Networks.

“What that means is no public oversight,” Roebuck said. “As bad as the LHIN system was, at least it was public.”

The legislation will also make it harder for people upset with their home care to make complaints, she said.

“People have a right to know what’s happening,” Roebuck said, “and what’s happening is the wholesale privatization of home care, community care, opening up of private hospitals, access to hospital services by private operators. It’s bad legislation.”

Nicholls said the government has no plans to privatize home care.

“Bill 175 is proposing to maintain that health-service providers or Ontario Health Teams that provide home and community care services must be not-for-profit,” he said. “Ontarians can continue to rely on our publicly funded health care system and publicly funded home care.”

Renee Bondy, left, and Tracy Bonvarlez attend a Chatham-Kent Health Coalition protest about issues in long-term care homes outside MPP Rick Nicholls’s office in Chatham, Ont., on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. Mark Malone/Chatham Daily News/Postmedia Network

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