Health coalition calls for inquiry

·3 min read

Health care advocates say Ontario seniors are not getting the health care they need and they say it is discrimination.

So the Ontario Health Coalition, including the Chatham-Kent Health Coalition, is asking the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner to launch a formal inquiry into the levels of care provided to the elderly in hospital and long-term care.

“We had best get this fixed,” says the chair of the Chatham-Kent Health Coalition. “The government has to fix this with money and improved standards of care.”

Shirley Roebuck says many elderly begin their health care journey in hospital. They often arrive with complex medical conditions, bust she says they are shunted out of hospital to long-term care facilities before problems are properly addressed.

Many elderly patients are designated “alternate level of care,” Roebuck says, adding they are often moved to places where very little care is provided beyond the basics. “Hospitals push these patients out as soon as possible,” the retired registered nurse explains.

Often, they land in for-profit long term care homes. Roebuck says long-term care and retirement homes are lucrative businesses with big profits. This continues, she says, even after COVID-19 has laid the system’s problems bare.

“There are 38,000 people in Ontario on the waiting list for care,” she adds. “It’s a money making venture. With so many boomers aging, something has to be done to service them.”

An inadequate number of poorly paid personal support workers intensifies the problem, Roebuck says, which adds to the elderly’s suffering.

Roebuck says the government is trying to fix the problem by offering free tuition and bonuses to train personal support workers, but while it’s a step forwards, it’s not enough to solve the problem. Roebuck says many more PSWs need to be hired. “The answer in the short term is very drastic. “

Long-term care employees also need to receive higher wages, and she adds jobs need to be full time. Right now, the majority of personal support workers are part time in Ontario's long term care homes.

The Ontario government is stepping up to train personal support workers free of charge through a variety of programs including stortened, free college courses which include on-the-job training in long term care homes.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent is running a paid in-house training program to supply workers to Riverview Gardens. Roebuck says the free tuition programs may not work because of the publicity the sector has received about its poor working conditions.

“Pay is low, there’s not enough people and working conditions are not good,” Roebuck says.

While there is a lot of lip service about fixing the elderly’s problems, Roebuck says, concrete action is needed.

“The long-term care system must be examined,” she adds.

A virtual press conference regarding the call for Human Right inquiry will be held March 24 at 11 a.m.

Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald