Sudbury rally calls for improvements to long-term care in Ontario
Posted: October 6, 2021
In the last three years, Sudbury’s Alessandro Presenza lost both his parents while they were staying in long-term care.
His mother died in 2018, and his father died in March 2020, when long-term care facilities were locked down due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“He died in 10 days,” Presenza said about his father. “What he died of was loneliness, devastation, fear, hopelessness. I got to talk to him on the phone twice and he was just devastated. ‘Where are you?'”
Presenza was one of the speakers at an Ontario Health Coalition rally outside of Sudbury’s Civic Memorial Cemetery Monday afternoon. It was one of 17 such rallies held across Ontario to bring awareness to the state of long-term care in the province.
Rally organizer Dot Klein said they chose to hold the rally outside of a cemetery due to the symbolism.
The province has reported 3,833 deaths due to COVID-19 in long-term care homes since April 2020.
Although his parents did not die of COVID-19, Presenza said they did not receive adequate care while in long-term care, and died as a result of that neglect.
He said nursing homes need higher staffing ratios and more financial accountability.
“It’s just really hard when you’re working short-staffed,” said Shawn Mathe, a personal support worker who also spoke at Monday’s rally.
“With the pandemic happening, we’re seeing a mass exodus of people leaving this field of work.”
Mathe said there are nursing homes in Sudbury where one or two personal support workers would be responsible for 32 patients during a night shift.
In June 2021 the provincial government introduced a $3 per hour wage increase for 50,000 eligible workers in long-term care, including personal support workers. The temporary wage increase was later extended to the end of October.
But Mathe said he would be better served if more people were encouraged to enter the sector, and if staffing levels were increased.
“All we want is four hours per day per person,” he said. “That means we would have five or six workers on the ground with 32 people.”
The protests came on the same day as the Speech from the Throne which kicked off a new session of the Ontario legislature.
The speech included promises of new legislation on long-term care this fall that will improve “accountability, enforcement, and transparency” and put an end to “the days when bad actors could get away with anything less than quality care.”
PC house leader Paul Calandra says his government has already made “massive investments” in the long-term care system, but “it’s not enough without vigorous regulation.”
The NDP has introduced its own legislation to mandate each long-term care resident receive at least four hours of hands-on care, but it has never made it past second reading in the Ontario legislature, said Sudbury MPP Jamie West.
West said the legislation would create more job opportunities in long-term care because staffing levels would need to increase to meet that standard of care. It would also help reduce burnout among personal support workers, he said, because they would have more help and would not have to care for as many patients at one time.