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Dear Neighbour,

You may have already heard about the heartbreaking report on the state of long term care in Ontario that was released today. It details the horrible conditions our seniors have had to endure in five different privately owned homes. The report was written by Canadian Armed Forces members who were deployed to the five long term care facilities with the worst outbreaks and was forwarded to the Government of Ontario.

The conditions and treatment of seniors revealed in this report are outrageous, horrifying and saddening. It included such awful items as:

  • Reusing needles and catheters to save money
  • Rotten food, cockroaches
  • Seniors left without a bath for weeks
  • Seniors left in soiled incontinence products, calling for help

You can read the whole report here.

It’s heartbreaking to think about the conditions these seniors are living in, and the anguish and fear their loved ones must feel when they hear about this report.

Thank you to the members of the Canadian Armed Forces who have shone a light on this in order to protect seniors.

The sad reality is that what we learned today about long term care is
not new and not limited to the five homes. While COVID-19 has exposed the problems in long term care, they are a result of years and years of mismanagement and health care workers have been ringing the alarm on this for years. The Ontario Health Coalition has been releasing major reports annually on the state of long-term care in Ontario and last May, Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU joined nurses and PSWs at Queen’s Park to call on this government to fix our broken long term care system. Since then, nothing has changed. In fact, Ontario conducted only nine resident quality inspections of long term facilities over the past year out of 626 facilities!

We cannot allow Premier Ford to simply express outrage about what his own government is failing to do on his watch. We need to see action now to avoid future tragedy. This means:

  • proactive inspections of all homes
  • takeovers of homes that are not safe
  • a full, transparent public inquiry

The Advocacy Centre for the Elderly says a full inquiry is necessary and the Ontario Hospital Association has called for an inquiry to start immediately, with a broad scope to examine the complexity of care for frail seniors. Without this kind of accountability, our seniors will not see justice.

There are of course immediate steps that need to be taken as well. The Ontario Health Coalition has compiled a detailed list. Please find them below.

I encourage you to join me on Thursday evening from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. when I will host a virtual conversation on Long Term Care. I will be joined by Sharleen Stewart, President of SEIU representing 60,000 health care workers, Tsering Lhamo, a local Personal Support Worker and Denise Schon, Chair of the family council at Lakeside LTC on Dunn Avenue. You can
RSVP here. If you’ve got a question, please submit them here this evening.

As always, wash your hands, stay home if you can, wear a mask when needed, be kind. We are all in this together.

Warmly,

Bhutila Karpoche,
MPP for Parkdale—High Park
Immediate Steps That Need to be Taken by the Ontario Government on Long-Term Care.

Better infection control including better access to PPE
Reusing surgical masks patient after patient, resident after resident, would have been totally unacceptable before COVID-19. Woefully insufficient access to N95 masks continues to be a major problem and there are shortages of other equipment. There needs to be a clear plan from the government to improve the supply of PPE or develop our own. Leaving it to industry to do voluntarily has so far been insufficient. Standards for infection control must be improved and staff need the appropriate equipment, enough supply and proper training in order to follow them. Staff who are infected must be supported to isolate at home. The directive allowing health care facilities to require staff to work who have tested positive but are asymptomatic is dangerous and should be changed. Testing of all residents and staff must be completed in long-term care homes, retirement homes, and congregate care facilities (and shelters). Testing, tracking and isolating people who test positive is shown to have stopped the spread of COVID-19 in other countries. It must happen here. Access to PPE using the precautionary principle must be implemented in long-term care, hospitals, home care and across the health care system as soon as possible.


Ramp up testing using our province’s full public capacity
Public hospital laboratories that are not currently doing COVID-19 testing and have the unused capacity should be ramping up testing. We need a clear honest plan from the provincial government that assesses our full capacity to test (including all the public hospitals, not just those that are currently testing) and immediately gets them to start getting the pieces in place to ramp up to our province’s real full capacity the testing, tracking and isolating to stop the spread of COVID-19. There must be a coherent plan to get the supply or develop it and transparency about what is happening with supply. Retirement homes are suffering from serious COVID-19 outbreaks as congregate care settings and shelters. They should be subject to the same rigorous systematic testing as long-term care homes have been.

Understaffing in long-term care is critical and must be addressed 
The provincial government cannot rely on long-term care homes in crisis to get themselves out of crisis. There must be a coherent plan, led by our government, to step in with a set of coordinated, concrete measures to get staff into the homes that have lost staffing levels due to sickness, having to choose one part-time job, staff leaving etc. Leaving it to the providers to forge voluntary arrangements among themselves is not sufficient. Staff need a permanent improvement to their wages and access to full-time hours. This cannot be voluntary and there is no path to stability without the provincial government undertaking these measures. The Minister of Long-Term Care must use her powers under the Long-Term Care Homes Act to revoke licences and appoint new management in long-term care homes that have uncontrolled outbreaks and evidence of negligence and poor practices.

Transfers to hospitals
Where there are long-term care homes in crisis without sufficient staff to provide proper palliative care and proper care to meet residents’ needs, residents should be transferred to public hospitals which are not in crisis for safe and proper care, subject to their right to consent.

Bring in family caregivers and retired nurses as soon as possible
Starting in areas where there has been little spread of COVID-19, with strict testing/contact tracing capacity, PPE supply and training in infection control families must be allowed back into long-term care homes. In other areas, primary family caregivers need to be able to be involved as partners in their families’ care. The pool of nurses that the RNAO has recruited to help should be utilized if they have not already been.

Institute a minimum care standard in long-term care
There has been deep consensus for decades that the rising acuity (complexity and heaviness of the care needs) of long-term care residents requires more care. This cannot be left to operators to do on their own and resources, both financial and human, need to be provided to support this. There cannot be further delay in beginning to move to a 4-hour average minimum care level for residents in long-term care to protect their safety and the safety of staff.

Halting of any expansion of for-profit long-term care
Given that the data has shown significantly higher death rates in privately-owned homes as compared to non-profit and governmentally owned facilities, it is important that the expansion of for-profit long-term care be halted for now.

Reminder: For the most up-to-date information please visit Toronto Public Health, Ontario Ministry of Health, and the Public Health Agency of Canada. Contact information is available on my website here.
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While our office is closed to the public as part of our efforts to manage the COVID-19 virus, we will continue to provide services for constituents via phone and email. Thank you for your patience and flexibility during this time. 

Phone: 416-763-5630
Email: BKarpoche-CO@ndp.on.ca 
BhutilaKarpoche.ca
Copyright © 2020 MPP for Parkdale—High Park, All rights reserved.


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