News from the Park: Major Cracks in our Long-term Care Facilities

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Readers will undoubtedly know that the Ontario Legislature has begun to resume operation, meaning that once again I find myself in Queen’s Park for the bulk of the week. Heading back to The City at first was rather disconcerting. The very streets themselves looked and sounded different. Not quiet but more empty than usual.  Seeing so many people walking around with masks on was also rather eye opening.  I have to admit I felt kind of …out of sorts.

We do not yet have a full house of MPPs since, just like everyone else, we are struggling to learn to work with new realities, which respect the necessity for social distancing, yet allow us to get the job done right.  As I sat there looking around preparing for opening prayers, I had to laugh to myself as a famous line from the movie The Wizard of Oz went through my mind. I could not help leaning over to whisper to a nearby colleague saying, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Then the words of the poet Robert Frost came to mind. He once said, “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.”  In truth, I felt comfort in these words.

Before going any further I want to say that I am extremely proud of the way the people of Algoma-Manitoulin have – and continue to – respond to the pandemic and all of the changes it has brought about.  To say my office was beyond swamped with many hundreds of calls and thousands of emails would be a gross understatement.  It was almost impossible for my staff and I to meet all of the demands and things at times were backlogged.  However, I am pleased to say that the people of this riding rose to the challenge and were extremely patient and understanding.  If nothing else, this experience has given me the opportunity to speak directly with so many residents and business owners that I have not had the chance to speak to before.

I also need to give a shout out to my office team as we worked supportively in trying to see to the needs of all constituents and business owners. If you have reason to contact my office in the future, take a moment to thank my team members Cindy, Grant, Thomas and Vicky for their dedication and hard work serving the people of Algoma-Manitoulin.

There is no doubt that all of us have experienced varying degrees of loss and even fear at times across a broad spectrum of issues and events.  However, the one issue that seems to stand out most in people’s minds is our failure as a society to protect one of the most vulnerable segments of out population – seniors in long-term care (LTC).  As for the statistics – they speak for themselves. According to the CBC, “A new study finds the proportion of Canadian COVID-19 deaths that have occurred in long-term care facilities is about twice the average of rates from other developed countries.”  In fact, about 75% of those who lost their lives due to COVID-19 were seniors and staff in long-term care.

Let there be no doubt that the responsibility for ensuring proper care for Ontario seniors falls upon the Province.  Doug Ford’s policies of cut, cut, cut are just not acceptable. Ford chose to ignore New Democrat’s warnings of major cracks in LTC long before the pandemic hit.  It took a scathing report by the Canadian military to finally bring to the forefront the conditions in which many seniors were living day after day and year after year.

  • Seniors hospitalized for dehydration and malnourishment
  • residents who were in their beds for days at a time
  • seniors with absolutely horrifying bed sores
  • residents begging for hours to be taken to the toilet or sitting in soiled clothing all day or night because their pleas went unanswered because of impossible staff/patient ratios

The sad thing is that all of this was preventable.  The cracks, or rather chasms in this case, were caused because Ford all but eliminated unannounced inspections of LTC facilities.  Despite the claims of Ford and LTC Minister Merrilee Fullerton that thousands of inspections have been performed, a CBC fact check found that in all of 2019, only 9 comprehensive inspections took place in Ontario.

When Ford was first elected, his message to Ontarians was that he is there for the little guy – those who are most vulnerable.   Well the proof is clearly in the pudding. In my view, seniors in LTC qualify as “little guys.”  Ford’s abandonment lead to avoidable illness, neglect, heartache and even death.

Now that a scandal of the highest level has developed, Ford said he would consider creating a Government Commission to look into the matter.  A Government Commission is nothing more than a simple review.  It’s like an attorney judging his own case.  Government Commissions are subject to back-room processes and has no chance of delivering the overall results the Ontarians deserve.

New Democrats are calling for a non-partisan, independent public inquiry into the failures of our LTC system.  A public enquiry will include independent experts without a predetermined agenda and no backs to scratch.  It is empowered to get immediate action at any time during the inquiry process to fix those things that we all know are wrong in nursing homes – from the lack of nutritious meals to the lack of staff on every shift.

Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP envious a public community based, non-profit seniors’ care system.  A new model for senior care would not shut down homes but rather it would change ownership.  The NDP envisions a senior care policy that would guarantee enough staff are allocated on each shift to interact with residents and deliver the care they need and deserve.  One where unscheduled inspections would be the norm to ensure families can be confident in the care their loved ones are receiving.

Throughout this crisis, my staff and I have been, and will continue to be available. Call or write the office if we can offer any assistance or resources. You can reach my constituency office by email at mmantha-co@ndp.on.ca, by phone at 705-461-9710 or Toll free 1-800-831-1899.

Michael Mantha MPP/député
Algoma-Manitoulin

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