Many of you have written or called my office with your concerns about the living and working conditions in long-term care homes, retirement homes and home care during this pandemic. I want you to know that I hear you and I'm pushing for this government to heed your concerns about the health and safety of your loved ones.
I was saddened to hear of the death of Christine Mandegarian yesterday. She was a personal support worker at Sienna Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Ont. with 31 years of experience. My heart goes out to all the loved ones she leaves behind.
This horrible tragedy is a reminder of the danger frontline workers are facing, and the support and protection they need.
With at least 10% of known COVID-19 cases being health care workers, we need stricter guidelines that close the loopholes before we lose more of our heroes and to ensure our loved ones are kept safe.
For years, my colleagues and I have been warning successive governments that the long-term care sector is broken.
For years, my colleagues and I have been proposing and pushing for solutions.
The time to fix the system is now - before even more lives are lost.
Here are this week’s new developments:
- Outbreaks at seniors’ homes account for nearly half of Canada’s COVID-19-related deaths.
- Ontario will not follow the lead of other provinces and have Public Health take over the management of private long-term care facilities, a measure to stop the spread of COVID-19.
- The situation at seniors' and long-term care homes is especially dire in Ontario and Quebec – the provincial government failed to mandate that long-term care workers and residents be tested to slow the virus's spread. (my colleagues and I have been calling for major changes to long-term care, like increased testing and raise PSW and RPN wages to a livable wage, handle infection control, and step up recruitment, retention and scheduling of staff.
- The provincial government put out new rules intended to limit staff who work at long-term care facilities to work at just one home, but they don’t come into effect until April 22. The new rules also contain a dangerous loophole that allows temp agency long-term care workers to continue working at multiple locations.
- A CBC investigation finds that last year, the provincial government scaled back inspections at long-term care homes, so only nine of Ontario’s 626 homes got a proper inspection.
- Ontario continues to fall behind the rest of the provinces when it comes to COVID-19 testing. The government announced it completed 9,000 COVID-19 tests on April 16th, but that is less than half of the 20,000 tests promised by mid-April.
- Trudeau will talk to premiers today about helping small businesses with rents – for weeks, the NDP has been calling on the Ontario government to provide help to small and medium-sized businesses, including a 75 per cent rent subsidy.
- Canada is expanding measures to help businesses during the pandemic, including broadened loan eligibility -- groups like the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) says these changes still leave out certain firms, like new businesses and the self-employed.
- The provincial government announced changes to auto insurance regulations on April 16th that allows auto insurance corporations the option of refunding drivers at an unspecified future date. My colleagues and I have been calling for a 50 per cent discount on their auto insurance for the duration of the pandemic to reflect the reality of decreased driving and accidents in the province.
- Criteria to qualify for the federal CERB will now include those earning less than $1,000 per month – changes aimed at helping contract, gig and seasonal workers, plus those running out of EI.
- A seniors’ advocacy group says the Ontario government limiting prescription refills to 30 days is hurting seniors financially – for weeks, my colleagues and I have been calling on the provincial government to cover the prescription co-payments seniors have to pay for every refill.
- Ontario will offer child care to staff in essential settings such as group homes and shelters, as well and law enforcement.
- The province is partnering with tech firms like Apple and Rogers to facilitate online learning for children while learning from home.
- Ontario is expected to release its latest modelling numbers on Monday, giving Ontarians a sense of what to expect in terms of projected COVID-19 case numbers and fatalities.
Here are some concerns that my colleagues and I are calling for the government to do:
- Support those who are falling through the cracks of federal supports, like students and top-ups for social assistance and low-wage workers
- Fix the troubling guidelines from the Ministry of Health for health care workers returning to work after testing positive for COVID-19, which allow staff who have the virus but are asymptomatic to return to work.
- Eliminate the massive loophole in its rules for LTC workers, and put in place tighter restrictions to protect LTC workers and staff like paying workers decently, giving them full-time hours, and banning them from working at a second facility, no exceptions.
- Listen to health experts and collect race and socio-demographic data on COVID-19.
- Close the dangerous gaps in the new orders to protect vulnerable group living facilities. Gaps include waiting a week for measures to take effect, and exempting temp agency staff from the rule to work in one home only.
- Support small businesses so they can keep afloat and make it through the pandemic.
- Cancel Time of Use pricing on hydro bills
Here are some things we’re hearing from you:
- Students are falling through the cracks because of the lack of financial supports
- Concerns about the state of long-term care and seniors homes before COVID-19 — a problem I have been raising for years.
- Ongoing concerns about small businesses struggling and now facing evictions — through no fault of their own — because there is no provincial support in place for expenses like commercial rent.
- Ongoing confusion about what businesses are essential and how to get clear information about it.
- The limiting of medication to a 30-day supply and the resulting 300% increase in copayments for the duration of the pandemic has put an undue financial strain on folks, especially seniors, on fixed incomes.
Resources and Links:
- The City of London has an FAQ to help simplify what Londoners can and can’t do in light of COVID-19.
- LifeSpin put together this list of resources for folks in London.
- The Ontario Government has created a centralized COVID-19 page which can be found here.
- Middlesex-London Health Unit has opened two COVID-19 screening centres. For more on that and other public health information visit Middlesex-London Health Unit’s page here.
- If you are interested in up-to-date information regarding Ontario Government announcements and programs I recommend monitoring the Ontario Newsroom.