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Long-term-care conditions reflect our priorities as a society

Posted: May 22, 2020

(April 25, 2020)

The Star

The media keeps repeating that successive governments are to blame for the appalling circumstances in our long-term-care homes, as these conditions are brutally exposed by a pandemic.

Our government’s actions are only a reflection of what we, the voters, believe important. And what we don’t find important.

We allow the warehousing of our frail and elderly in a system that is underfunded and staffed by people who are compassionate, but abysmally paid.

Not coincidentally, these staff members are usually women, and often new Canadians, stretched to the limit, and who must often work at multiple jobs to make ends meet.

Our motivation is that we believe only people who produce economically are worthy of being properly cared for, and if caring for non-producers hits our pocketbooks, we won’t have it.

We keep the whole system, for the most part, out of sight and out of mind, because if we looked at it squarely in the face, we would have to admit who we are. And what we are.

We only have to look in our mirrors to see who the killer is in our long-term-care system.

Len Bulmer, Aurora

The time has come to pay PSWs what they are worth, Letters, April 19

All the issues of poor care in nursing homes could have been avoided if registered nurses and registered practical nurses had been providing the care.

RNs and RPNs have the education and professional responsibility to perform the scope of practice mentioned by Dr. Catherine Brookman in her letter.

The reason those health professionals are not in greater numbers in these homes is due to our compensation. Nurses are expensive, but, as we are learning now, you get what you pay for.

By going for the least-expensive options in our health care, we outsourced our supplies and cheated our elderly and vulnerable loved ones of good nursing care.

A PSW can be trained in a 16-week course. RPNs study for two years. RNs have a BScN from a university.

RNs and RPNs are licensed and have the College of Nurses to answer to if there is a question of competence or negligence. PSWs can walk off the job with no repercussions.

We should be treating our families and friends with professional nurses.

Jennifer Gingras, RN, BScN, Whitby

The SARS crisis in 2003 should have been enough of a lesson to initiate a strict infectious disease protocol for Ontario nursing homes, considering the ominous predictions of an even more virulent disease to come. The outcome of ignoring this matter was entirely predictable.

Media reports in January about a deadly virus of epic proportion overseas should have signalled health authorities to take urgent action to protect residents of nursing homes. This could have prevented the premature deaths of countless seniors.

Two months have since passed, as the situation worsens by the day, with politicians and health officials scrambling to understand what steps to take.

The failure to put infection protocols into effect at the outset of this horrific event is a reflection of 25 years of systematic failures to take strenuous and consequential action against heavily subsidized long-term-care facilities and corporations, which have blatantly and historically failed to comply with legislated standards and regulations.

Families of loved ones who died in this nightmare and those who endured horrific deaths over the years as a result of negligence in long-term-care facilities will never forget the betrayal and the heartache caused by government ineptitude.

Ellen Watson, Aurora

Long-term-care homes and home-care providers have been severely underfunded for years, despite calls to increase resources needed to protect against inflation and to adequately compensate a skilled workforce.

The disaster we are witnessing was forecasted by the Ontario Health Coalition. Unfortunately, their well-researched reports have fallen on the deaf ears of successive Conservative and Liberal governments, both provincial and federal.

In “Caring in Crisis,” Ontario’s long-term-care personal support worker shortage report (December 2019) commissioned by Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector union, shortcomings were identified and recommendations made to address the shortfalls in this important socio-economic sector.

Unifor represents about 15,000 health-care workers in Ontario alone, but the vast majority of personal support workers are not represented by unions, and many of them are women and recent immigrants.

A competitive bidding process for the industry introduced by our provincial government drove down wages and benefits. Part-time hours and heavy workloads have led to a shortage of individuals wishing to dedicate themselves to caring for our seniors. Deregulation has only added to the nightmare.

Private long-term-care home operators have successfully lobbied provincial governments for the reduction and virtual elimination of inspections, thereby avoiding public scrutiny.

In the end, it really is a matter of misguided government priorities.

We can do better. We must demand better. We will need to keep our politicians’ feet to the fire.

Ben Lefebvre, Iroquois Falls, Ont.

Surge in health-care workers looking to be tested, April 22

I would like to know why all people living and working in seniors’ homes are not being automatically tested for the COVID-19 virus. Why are workers having to go themselves to be tested?

This article says workers are going to Sunnybrook wanting to be tested. Why should they have to make a special trip? They should all be getting tested where they work.

Between not having enough personal protective equipment and being worried about bringing the virus home, shouldn’t we be making life a little easier for them? They are front-line workers.

Debby Lovegrove, Peterborough, Ont.

As a senior, I am concerned about efforts in our city and beyond to control the virus’s spread.

Over half of all our COVID-19 deaths are from long-term-care facilities. If you read or listen to the news, you would have known for months that the hot spots around the world have been long-term-care facilities.

We have been sold the notion that the top priority for personal protective equipment must be hospitals, when many of these hospitalizations and deaths could have been prevented by providing care facilities with adequate equipment in the first place, not as an after-thought.

More could have been done by addressing the immediate and much more difficult problem of separating people from each other in these facilities, by having families take elderly residents back home or by setting up temporary places to house and care for residents until contagion is past.

Politicians at all levels of government cannot hide behind lack of information.

Michael Erdman, Toronto
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