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Recommendations from long-term care commission echo calls from lobby groups

Posted: October 26, 2020

(October 25, 2020)

By: Allan Benner, St. Catharines Standard

Many of the recommendations released Friday by the province’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission sound very familiar, local advocacy groups say.

Among recommendations included in an interim report, the commission is calling for a minimum of four hours of daily care for each resident of long-term care homes — something advocacy groups have been calling for for years, said Carol Dueck from Network 4 Long Term Care Advocacy Committee.

The commission’s recommendations also include increased permanent funding to hire additional staff and transition part-time workers to full-time, and to develop better collaboration between long-term care homes, local hospitals and public health units, and to move residents with infection out of long-term care homes to other health-care settings to prevent the spread of the virus and to help them recover.

Now, as COVID-19 outbreaks again increase at long-term care homes in Niagara and across the province, Dueck said the provincial government must take immediate action.

She said there are “multitudinous evidence-based reports” calling for the same investments, “and now their own commission is saying it’s been studied to death — we don’t need to study the study, get on with it.”

“I don’t know how they can possibly ignore this. They have the majority, they have the mandate, they know what needs to be done. I don’t know how with a straight face they can ask to get re-elected and not do something about this,” Dueck said.

She said the Time to Care Act, Bill 13 — legislation that includes many of the recommendations in the commission’s interim report — will be up for second reading on Wednesday.

The province,” Dueck added, “just needs to get on with it.”

If those recommendations had been in place, she suspects Ontario’s hard-hit long-term care homes “would have had a fighting chance with COVID.”

St. Catharines MPP Jennie Stevens said the commission’s findings also echo investments the New Democratic Party has repeatedly demanded.

As deaths at long-term care homes across the province began to climb in the spring, she said the NDP “went forward with our charge” demanding increased investment to protect the vulnerable residents.

“It is very frustrating. At the end of the day, we have to make sure our seniors are looked after and especially in the long-term care sector and to ensure they have their dignity,” Stevens said. “It’s not anything to do with how the PSWs (personal support workers) are working because they’re doing their due diligence.”

And despite recent government announcements of temporary wage increases for PSWs to address staff shortages, Stevens said PSWs she has spoken with remain concerned they will again be forgotten about when the pandemic ends.

“In the nursing homes, they’re run off their feet. … You can’t keep putting up temporary solutions for permanent problems,” she said.

“We have to make sure they get a decent wage and they’re paid for their sick days.”

Stevens said long-term care homes in Niagara will be the subject of an online town hall meeting Monday evening including NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, herself and fellow provincial NDP representatives Wayne Gates from Niagara Falls and Jeff Burch from Niagara Centre.

“I’m pretty excited about it,” Stevens said.

The meeting, to be broadcast live at 6 p.m. on the Facebook sites of participating NDP representatives, will focus on the NDP’s plans to overhaul home care and long-term care across the province.

Stevens said the NDP plan amplifies the voices of long-term care home workers who have shared their concerns.

“We listened to the RNs (registered nurses), we listened to the PSWs and we learned from what this pandemic brought upon us. We’re going to move forward with the lessons that we’ve learned.”

In a media release issued by the NDP in response to the commission’s interim report, Horwath said: “Sadly and sickeningly, so much of what the commission has found so far underlying that is not new.”

“Chronic understaffing leading to resident neglect has been hurting people for years — and has only gotten worse as for-profit corporations cut more corners to pocket bigger profits over the last two decades,” she said.

“We need to keep our health-care workers happy and safe and keep residents in long-term care safe. We also have to let the caregivers, the family members, feel like they have a place within this health-care sector.”

The commission’s recommendations were supported by labour and health care advocacy groups.

While supporting the recommendations, the United Food and Commercial Workers representing 5,000 long-term care and retirement home employees in Ontario also called for improvements to elder care across the entire health-care sector.

A statement from the Ontario Health Coalition said the organization has been calling for the implementation of similar measures for months.

“There can be no excuse for further failure to implement these recommendations immediately,” the group’s executive director Natalie Mehra said in a media release.

The commission’s final report is expected to be released in April.

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