When it comes to long-term care, Shirley Roebuck thinks Ontario’s Premier should stop crying crocodile tears.
“Doug Ford should be trying to stabilize the workforce in LTC homes,” says the leader of the Chatham-Kent Health Coalition.
“Instead the province passed Bill 195 that extends emergency measures, and helps create profits for the owners of private homes.”
Chronic understaffing is widespread, says the veteran health care advocate, creating “horrific” conditions for elderly residents and the people who care for them.
COVID-19 has only exacerbated the problems of a crisis-riddled industry.
As the result of nursing homes outbreaks, many elderly Ontarians lost their lives, as did some of the staff that cared for them.
To stem the spread of novel coronavirus in LTC, Ontario’s Ministry of Health mandated workers to only one workplace and that employees could be shifted to various roles and hours at the whim of the employer — super-ceding union contracts and seniority.
Visiting at homes was also curtailed, which cut over personal care normally provided by family members.
Roebuck says the shortage of qualified workers is compounded by low pay, heavy work and an inability to get full-time jobs with benefits.
“The Tories lean towards supporting for profit businesses and Bill 195 does exactly that,” Roebuck notes.
She says political support for front-line LTC workers isn’t real.
“Before COVID, the sector was already too short-staffed with personal support workers leaving because it’s so hard and so heavy,” the retired nurse says.
Also, she adds, pay increments in private for-profit homes “aren’t great” and some people working long hours in so-called part-time jobs can wait up to 10 years for a full-time position.
She thinks it’s high time for the health ministry to step up.
“I’m suggesting the government intercede and properly fund the people that care for our residents in homes,” she adds.
Roebuck doesn’t think the general public understands the full scope of the crisis but those involved do.
A myriad of life-threatening problems exist ranging from malnutrition, to poor oral care, to toileting issues.
“Anyone who works for, or has a loved one in long-term care, has long known there’s a serious problem.
Official complaints rarely do any good in such an over-burdened system, she adds.
“Family complaints fall on deaf ears,” Roebuck says. “It’s not easy to take your loved one out of care.
“You’ll be told ‘go ahead.’
Pam Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Herald