NDP MPP says major changes needed in northern long-term care homes
QUEEN’S PARK — NDP MPP Guy Bourgouin for Mushkegowuk James Bay is calling on the Ford government to immediately make major changes and investments in long-term care and home care to stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.
With a population aging at a faster pace than Ontario's as a whole, and with a longstanding shortage of qualified health care workers like PSWs — many of who travel long distances to get to the long-term care facilities where they work — long-term care homes in Northern Ontario are especially vulnerable.
As a result of decades of chronic neglect, long-term care and home care across Ontario were already facing damaging underfunding and understaffing before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the pandemic began, there have been dozens of outbreaks in long-term care homes across the province.
“Seniors in care and their loved ones are devastated and terrified thinking about what will happen next,” said Bourgouin. “The time to evaluate the underfunding and understaffing will come later — but the time to leap into action to save more residents has to come today.
“Our parents and grandparents need us. We have a responsibility to protect them.”
The Official Opposition NDP is calling for major changes and investments, including:
- Aggressively recruiting home care and long-term care staff
- Mandate that more staff be scheduled on each shift in each long-term care home
- Immediately increase salaries for staff to a minimum of $22/hr in order to retain and attract workers, including Personal Support Workers (PSWs) and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs)
- Assign each staff member to one facility only, and ensure they have full-time hours, to eliminate the potential for staff to transmit COVID-19 to other facilities, ending all exceptions
- Standardize visitor policies province-wide to prevent COVID-19 transmission from visitors and volunteers, seeking Public Health determination on the safest policy
- Mandate that home care workers wear personal protective equipment — including gloves and a mask based on the precautionary principle — for every home visit, to avoid transmission from one vulnerable client to another, and mandate long-term care staff wear PPE any time they’re with residents
- Create a caregiver fund to support families that choose to care for their loved one at home
In 2019, several reports highlighted the under-staffing crisis in Ontario’s long-term care sector, including the “Caring in Crisis: Ontario’s Long-Term Care PSW Shortage” report (December 2019), “Breaking Point: Violence Against Long-Term Care Staff” (March 2019), and “Bloodied, Broken and Burned Out: 88% of Long-Term Care Staff Experience Violence” (March 2019).