One of the lessons I try to impart on my grandchildren is to always respect and value their elders. It’s a simple lesson, and one that my parents instilled in me.
The report on the state of our long-term care homes from the Canadian Armed Forces shocked and enraged anyone with a heart – our parents and grandparents living among cockroach infestations, alongside rotten food, not bathed for weeks, left in soiled diapers and crying out for help. For-profit care homes saw our loved ones as dollar signs and these inhumane ‘homes’ were the result.
These images shatter the idea that this province is properly respecting the seniors who built our province. Premier Doug Ford, for his posturing on this, cannot pretend not to have known there was a crisis. Once again his actions do not match his words. We should all remember that Ford’s first budget cut $34 million from long-term care.
Kathleen Wynne and the Liberals under her should be ashamed to throw stones. They were the ones who tried to cancel annual inspections of homes in 2016 before public pressure forced them to reverse course.
What our province needs now is immediate action to fix the system so that more of our loved ones can live in dignity and be treated with the respect they deserve.
Firstly, Ontario must dramatically increase inspections. Every care home that does not meet humane and comfortable living standards should be immediately taken under the control of the Province. For too long private for-profit homes have slashed our seniors’ care in the pursuit of profits. These companies have lost their right to care for our parents and a full, independent judicial inquiry must allow their victims the space to speak and have their voice heard.
Second, the Province must immediately move to protect our seniors inside these homes and across Ontario. COVID-19 didn’t cause the problem in these homes, but it has moved with devastating speed to take our loved ones from us. We could and should have protected our seniors, and the workers who care for them, but only if we moved faster and more strategically to get ahead of this virus. Ford’s minister of long-term care, Merrilee Fullerton, who has been an advocate for private healthcare providers, should immediately resign. The fact that it took the military to break this open just shows that the Ford government does not have the care or leadership needed to help our seniors get through this crisis.
Finally, we must put in place a community-based seniors care system that prioritizes care over profits. Seniors have spent a lifetime helping to build our province, and a better world. Now, it’s our turn to take care of them with high-quality, dignified care based on the needs of each resident.