‘This isn’t working’
Posted: October 5, 2021
(October 4, 2021)
By: Colleen Romaniuk, Cochrane Times Post
PHOTO BY JOHN LAPPA/SUDBURY STAR
The Sudbury branch of the Ontario Health Coalition held a protest Monday to demand immediate action from the provincial government to address issues in the long-term care sector.
The protest was one of 16 different demonstrations organized by regional health coalitions that occurred in cities across the province on the day that the Ontario Legislature was scheduled to open.
Health coalitions are hoping to pressure the Ford government into for-profit long-term care facilities in addition to addressing staffing shortages and inadequate standards of care.
A local PSW who has worked in the long-term care sector for 10 years said the protests were necessary because he fears the sector is “on the verge of collapse.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated the chronic issues that have existed in the sector for decades.
“I would like to take you back to February 2020 when the OHC commissioned a report entitled Caring in Crisis which outlined the severity of the crisis happening in long-term care,” said Shawn Mathe, the member at large for the nursing care sector, Local 598, Unifor.
PHOTO BY JOHN LAPPA/SUDBURY STAR
“We had roundtable discussions across all of Ontario which included many stakeholders including advocates, politicians, administrators, educators, and front-line staff. All arrows ended up pointing in the same direction – we need help from our government to improve standards of care.”
The OHC’s report made nine recommendations to improve long-term care in Ontario and called on the provincial government to implement the recommendations immediately.
These recommendations included instituting a minimum standard of care of at least four hours of daily, hands-on nursing and personal support for all LTC residents and improved wages and working conditions for PSWs.
“Fast-forward to today, 16 months later, and I stand here with sadness to let you know that nothing has changed,” said Mathe.
“Working through this pandemic, long-term care has actually gotten worse. Many of my colleagues have spoken to me about the stress they are going through. A lot of people I know have chosen to leave the profession entirely.”
As a result of this “mass exodus,” Mathe said LTC facilities in Greater Sudbury are more short-staffed than ever.
“The pandemic burnout has become all too real. The anxiety and stress in long-term care facilities in Sudbury is at an all time high,” he said.
“I field the calls from workers who have broken down in tears asking for help. I can’t imagine the stress put on the family members during the pandemic. It breaks my heart knowing that they had to go through window visits because they weren’t allowed in facilities.”
To enact real change that will improve the lives of residents and health care workers alike, Mathe said that everyone needs to work together.
“We should be united as a team. I am calling on all the unions to act together. We have to tell Doug Ford one simple message: this isn’t working,” he said.
“No matter how many beds the government intends to build, no matter how much the government increases our wages, there’s not going to be enough health care workers to fill any of the holes the Ford government has created by the mismanagement of the pandemic.”
Despite Ford’s promises to permanently increase wages for PSWs and to build 4,000 new LTC beds by 2022, the OHC said there has been no real improvement in the understaffing and care crisis.
“For-profit operators have taken their profits throughout the pandemic yet have not been held accountable to actually provide the safety and care for which they are funded,” said a press release.
“In fact, the Ford government passed legislation last fall to shield the operators from liability for their negligence.”
Sudbury MPP Jamie West, who attended the protest at the Civic Memorial Cemetery in Sudbury on Monday, agreed that for-profit LTC is impacting the quality of care that seniors receive in Ontario.
“There are a lot of people becoming incredibly wealthy through long-term care. We need to get profit out of health care in general across the board,” he said.
“You cannot compete with a public model because no matter what you do with your dollars, when for-profit is in there, a portion of it has to go to shareholders.
“I believe, when it comes to our parents, grandparents and me one day, that every single dollar should be going towards care and not to lining some millionaire’s pocket.”
The OHC is calling on the provincial government to take immediate action to fast-track increases in care levels and staffing to meet residents care needs.
This includes improving staffing conditions in all LTC facilities across the province and instituting a minimum standard of care of four hours per resident daily.
They are also looking for enforcement of care standards through the reinstatement of annual surprise inspections, and real accountability through fines and loss of license through repeated non-compliance.
The coalition wants the government to appeal the act that shields LTC operators from lawsuits for negligence, end for-profit long-term care, and ensure the human rights of all residents are upheld.
This means “an end to unlawful detention, isolation, and ensure full access to caregivers and families,” said a press release.
“We are sending a clear message to the Ford government,” said Dot Klein, co-chair of the Sudbury OHC branch.
“The message is: Mr. Ford, nothing has changed in LTC facilities. Residents and staff continue to die from COVID, COVID variants, lack of care and neglect.”