Sudbury rally part of province-wide day of action for long-term care
Ontario Health Coalition wants province to recruit and train staff, improve pay, working conditions
A car rally being held this morning in Sudbury hopes to shed light on what one politician says is much-needed systemic change Ontario's long-term care homes.
Nickel Belt NDP MPP and Ministry of Health critic France Gelinas says the pandemic has exposed some long-term problems that exist in the places that care for some of society's most vulnerable people.
"People discovered what has been going on — and not going on — in our homes, and they want change," she said.
Last week, Premier Doug Ford announced a wage boost for more than 147,000 personal support workers, starting Oct. 1 and ending in March 2021, but there needs to be a more comprehensive solution, Gelinas said.
To start, there needs to be a mandated standard of four hours, daily, of hands-on care for each long-term care resident, she says. And the province needs to address the shortage of staff, mainly personal support workers (PSWs) in long-term care homes.
"Give them full time work, decent pay, a little bit of benefits, a pension plan and a work load that a human being can handle," Gelinas said.
And, she notes, long-term care home inspections need to happen more often than they do now.
"We have 78,000 vulnerable Ontarians who live in 626 homes and last year the government did one inspection. They inspected one home. This cannot be," Gelinas said.
"It is the job of the government to protect vulnerable people. When you have for-profit homes, basically given hundreds of millions of dollars to their shareholders, the government has a responsibility to make sure that the care that we paid for was actually delivered."
The car rally, held by the Ontario Health Coalition, will take at a publicly-run facility, Pioneer Manor.
"Pioneer Manor does a very good job in our city. [The rally is taking place] to bring a view as to what's going on in the entire province, but I'm sure the PSWs at Pioneer Manor would like to have full time [jobs] and [be] better paid," said Gelinas.
The rally is one of about a dozen happening in Ontario at the same time. Speakers at the Sudbury event will include include Mick Lowe, a long-term care resident, Lynn Logtenberger, representing a local family council, and Eric Boulay, of Unifor/Mine Mill.
"It's really to bring forward the voices of many people that have loved ones in long-term care, many people who want long-term care to be there and to be respectful of the people," said Gelinas.
Asking for this systemic change to happen quickly is doable, Gelinas says, pointing to Ontario's neighbour as an example.
"In March, Quebec sent out a request for people to come and work in their long-term care homes. They paid them $21 an hour to attend the training to go to college and get trained as a PSW, they guaranteed them a full time job at $25 an hour when they graduate," she said.
"Come August, they [will] have 2,000 fully trained PSWs added to their long-term care system. It can be done quite quickly when the political will is there. Other provinces have done it. We want Ontario to do the same."
Meanwhile, Ontario's patient ombudsman has released a series of recommendations on reforming the province's long-term care system to prepare for a resurgence of COVID-19.
The office began a formal investigation into long-term care in June after receiving hundreds of complaints in the early days of the pandemic.
In a special report made public Thursday, ombudsman Cathy Fooks says that investigation continues.
However, her office is making four "preliminary recommendations" aimed at improving Ontario's response to COVID-19 and preparing for a second wave in long-term care.
The first is for all health-care providers to have backstops and contingency plans in place to deal with an outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The other recommendations include enhanced whistleblower protections, dedicated communications resources and a new approach to visitation.
with files from The Canadian Press.