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Thursday rally at Oosterhoff’s office focused on long-term care

Posted: October 7, 2020

(October 6, 2020)

By: Allan Benner, The Standard

As COVID-19 outbreaks again increase at long-term care homes in Niagara and across the province, advocacy groups are renewing lobbying efforts for systemic changes they feel are needed to protect the residents of those facilities.

Despite past outbreaks that claimed the lives of about 1,900 people across Ontario, Betty Miller from long-term care advocacy group Guardian Angels said staff shortages and hours of direct resident care have yet to be addressed, despite recent government announcements of $540 million in funding for long-term care homes.

As the second wave of COVID-19 has started to impact long-term care homes, Miller said “nothing much has changed since the pandemic started back on March.”

“They’re still understaffed. They should have hired more staff back in March and April,” she said. “Don’t just start now. Now, it’s too late. People are getting sick already.”

There were five long-term care and retirement homes in Niagara as of Tuesday with outbreaks of COVID-19 including Shalom Gardens, Meadows of Dorchester, Lundy Manor, Millennium Trail Manor and Pioneer Elder Care, which is experiencing outbreaks at three of its facilities.

On Thursday, Miller will team up with Network 4 Long Term Care Advocacy Committee chair Carol Dueck and Niagara Health Coalition chair Sue Hotte for a demonstration at the Beamsville office of Niagara West MPP Sam Oosterhoff starting at 11 a.m.

Hotte said her group has been raising awareness about issues within long-term care homes with the government for years.

“The COVID-19 has exasperated everything,” she said.

In an e-mail, Oosterhoff referred to millions in investments his government has made in long-term care since the pandemic began. In March, he said the province announced $243 million in emergency COVID-19 funding for long-term care homes, supporting screening efforts, additional staff, enhanced cleaning and surge capacity.

And the recent funding announcement — including $405-million to enhance containment measures, provide staffing supports and personal protective equipment; $61.4 million for renovations in the homes to improve infection control, and about $30 million for increased staff and training — adds up to “more than a half a billion dollars we’re spending and we’re sparing no expense,” he added.

Meanwhile, Oosterhoff said a “landmark investment” of $461 million increases wages for 147,000 personal support workers and will help stabilize the workforce.

Thursday’s demonstration will coincide with rallies planned for the offices of Conservative MPPs across the province, as well as at Queen’s Park, organized by the Ontario Health Coalition.

Hotte said the Beamsville event will include a motorcade of vehicles adorned with signs and decorations sharing messages about needed improvements to Ontario’s long-term care homes.

While the rally itself will be limited to less than 25 people who will be wearing masks and socially distanced via sidewalk chalk markings, Hotte said the motorcade allows far more people to participate.

People participating in the motorcade are to meet in the parking lot at 5005 Ontario St. at about 10:30 a.m. to outfit their vehicles with signs and decorations.

While Hotte said some signs will be provided by organizers, she asked people to create their own signs to ensure there will be enough for everyone.

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