COVID-19 did not create the long-term care crisis, but it has exposed to everyone what family members and advocates have been saying for years. Successive governments have failed our seniors, and refused to invest the necessary money to maintain our long-term care homes and invest in new beds. For years, seniors have been lying in hospital beds, desperately waiting for access to long-term care rooms, and that’s made our hospitals more overcrowded. At the same time, private companies have been stretching dollars thinner and thinner to ensure their record profits continued to grow. The system is broken, and we need to fix it.
Government after government refuses to face up to the failures of their actions in long-term care, and instead kicks the can down the road. The cycle must stop, and this must be fixed.
We need to start taking the actions to build a new system that protects our seniors and gives them the level of care they deserve. As a Member of Provincial Parliament for a riding that has one of the highest population of seniors per capita in the country, I believe getting these steps underway is a matter of life and death for my community.
The Ford government reluctantly agreed to an inquiry to investigate the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care, but refused to make it a fully-independent judicial inquiry. This means when the minister of long-term care and the health minister give evidence, it will be behind closed doors. The commissioners themselves have said the Ford government is ‘slow-walking’ the release of documents requested by the commission, making it more difficult for them to deliver a full report by April. The Ford government must stop obstructing their work, and waste no time in implementing every recommendation, but there are actions that can be taken immediately.
We have a new vision for a new system for home and community care and long-term care where every dollar goes directly to residents. In the meantime, we have put forward positive solutions that will begin to make a difference right now.
We have tabled legislation to provide a minimum of four hours of hands-on care to seniors in long-term care homes, but today our Premier and his caucus continue to block this necessary measure. We have a bill before the legislature that would give PSWs a $4 an hour pay raise to start giving them the wages they deserve, and help to recruit more staff for our long-term care homes. Ford and his MPPs have unfortunately voted against that too.
We know the system is broken and needs to be fixed. Let’s start by taking actions now to protect our seniors. Increasing hours of care and raising the pay of critical frontline staff is only the beginning, but the government needs to stop withholding any of the information requested by the commission, and make these changes without delay. Our parents and grandparents can’t wait while politicians drag their feet.
By acting now we can save lives and put the foundations in place for a new system that puts residents first.