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WITH VIDEO: ‘We need to put the pressure on’: Fight continues for long-term care changes with Almonte day of action

Posted: October 11, 2020

(October 10, 2020)

By: Ashley Kulp, Carleton Place Almonte Canadian Gazette

Karen Thompson remembers her mom Mae Wilson as a “crazy character.”

She lost her 93-year-old mom on Mother’s Day. Wilson was one of 29 Almonte Country Haven (ACH) residents who died from COVID-19 during the long-term care home’s outbreak this past spring.

“She was a good mother and a good lady,” Thompson said.

Wilson lived at ACH from 2016 to 2020, and Thompson visited every day to spend time with her. When the pandemic hit the facility, “it was tough.”

“Just looking through the window, it’s not fun,” she admitted, noting her mother had tested positive twice for the virus. “She didn’t really suffer from COVID-19. I don’t know what part of it killed her and if it was more the isolation that hurt her, but she was totally healthy before Christmas and she was not totally healthy when Mother’s Day came around.”

“She gave it a good fight, but she wouldn’t be gone now if it hadn’t been for COVID,” Thompson added.

Thompson, who sits on the Almonte Country Haven Family Council, joined a group of a dozen fellow council members, long-term care workers and supporters at Almonte Old Town Hall Oct. 8 as part of a demonstration for a provincewide day of action. She said she was there to “give (Ontario Premier Doug) Ford a kick in the rear end.”

Fresh from a night shift, Amy Ayers, a personal support worker (PSW) at a local long-term care home, organized the Almonte effort, which included a car motorcade down Mill Street.

“I felt like we had to take the opportunity to get involved with this because we need to put the pressure on,” she noted.

Co-ordinated by the Ontario Health Coalition, the demonstrations, which also took place at Queen’s Park in Toronto, as well as in Ottawa, Kingston and Peel, called for the Ford government to address deficiencies in the long-term care system, where there have been 1,900 deaths in eight months. That includes adding more staff, implementing a minimum of four hours of care per resident per day, as well as taking steps to put an end to for-profit facilities.

While the province announced an increase in the hourly rate for long-term care PSWs by $3 on Oct. 1, the OHC says it’s “far less than what is needed.”

“There is no clear recruitment plan and they will not address the long-standing issues with lack of full-time work and poor conditions,” stated an Oct. 6 press release. “Quebec and British Columbia acted months ago and are doing more. We are calling for immediate action by the Ford government to recruit and train staff, improve pay and working conditions and provide full-time work.”

David Frisch, also a member of the ACH Family Council, said the for-profit long-term care homes simply don’t work as “profit is the bottom line,” not the staff or residents.

“That’s (profit) is not what long-term care is about,” he stressed, adding that increasing the standard care to four hours of hands-on care for each resident a day, will help those with varying abilities.

Frisch said the provincial government has failed both staff and residents of long-term care. “The province has unfortunately come up short in a lot of ways, not just in the availability of testing for a second wave they knew would come but for the amount of staffing that’s required to provide proper care.”

Ayers, who followed in her mother’s footsteps, has been a PSW for three years, and felt it important to speak on behalf of her co-workers because “we need changes.”

“When you have a shortage of staff, you have a core care breakdown,” she said, when speaking of concerns of her fellow PSWs “coming to work and being stressed out.”

“A lot of people have anxiety on their drive into work because they know that staffing is short,” Ayers continued.

But equally important, Ayers said, is the care of the residents. “They deserve top-notch, five-star care.”

“We’re here today to be loud and proud,” she remarked. “I’m here to show that it’s OK as a PSW to come out, speak out and see there are tons of people behind us, in front of us and beside us.”

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