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Ont. health minister apologizes for diaper comment

Ontario's health minister has apologized for suggesting he might wear an adult diaper in an effort to understand the plight of incontinent nursing-home residents.

Ontario's health minister has apologized for suggesting he might wear an adult diaper in an effort to understand the plight of incontinent nursing-home residents.

Ontario's Health Minister George Smitherman said Thursday he didn't intend to trivialize the issue of seniors' care when he suggested he might don an adult diaper. ((Nathan Denette/Canadian Press))

"If people were offended or think that I shouldn't have raised those comments, I do apologize," George Smitherman said in a statement issued Thursday.

"But I want everyone to know I wasn't trivializing the matter. I take it really, really seriously."

Smitherman made the diaper remark Wednesday after union representatives visiting Queen's Park said that seniors in old-age facilities were suffering great indignities because of understaffing, including a lack of washroom breaks.

The minister said he was "seriously considering" wearing an adult diaper to ensure a decision to use them at Ontario facilities was, in fact, appropriate.

NDP calls for minister's resignation

Conservative Opposition leader John Tory Thursday demanded an apology from Smitherman, saying the minister should come forward with an action plan on long-term care within the next two weeks in order to make up for his alleged irreverence. 

Others have been harsher in their criticism, including NDP leader Howard Hampton, who has called for Smitherman's resignation.

"His actions were offensive [and] insulting, and he has demonstrated he's not fit for the job," Hampton said in a statement.

Smitherman claims he was not joking but simply trying to do "my very best to put myself at all times in the perspective of the patient."

Premier Dalton McGuinty was quiet on the issue Thursday after saying a day earlier that the issue was a matter of "human dignity" and not a subject of jest.

Union representatives say health-care workers in nursing homes are resigning from their jobs because of shabby standards of care in provincial long-term care facilities. They want the province to mandate a minimum of 3.5 hours of personal care for residents each day.

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