Ontario needed to act yesterday to help long term care through COVID-19 says coalition

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The head of the Ontario Health Coalition wants Ontario to take a page from Quebec’s pandemic playbook.

Natalie Mehra says the province should put the full weight of government behind a solution to help long term care weather the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a news conference Tuesday, Mehra voiced concern the second wave in long term care is “getting more serious daily.” Nursing homes were the hardest hit in the spring as COVID-19 swept through particularly older homes which had more than one person per room. To date, 1,875 seniors in long term care have died .

Today, there are 51 homes which are in outbreak with 136 residents and 165 staff members who have tested positive for the virus.

“Like last spring, we are seeing the numbers escalate in long term care,” says Mehra. “What we have not seen is the change in long term care. Some homes have stepped up…and really responded very well.

“But there is alarming evidence the requirements from the Ontario government for the homes have not improved.”

Mehra says there are still health care workers without N95 masks treating COVID-19 cases and there are still many homes were residents are sharing rooms and washrooms which allows the virus to spread rapidly.

“We wanted a cross-province, systematic plan…and when there was one case of COVID-19 in a home, these measures snap into place.”

But she says there is no clear direction to the homes and despite promises of 3,700 new personal support workers and nurses, those people are not in the homes yet.

Mehra says Ontario should be following Quebec’s lead. In June, it launched a strategy “with the full weight of government behind it” to hire 10,000 PSW and raise their salaries to $21 per hour for PSWs in training and $26 for those who are trained and working in long term care. Quebec also beefed up infection control in the homes.

“We need something like the Quebec government has done, where we recruit the staff we vitally need in the homes…and we need a minimum standard of care.”

Unions and health advocacy groups have long asked that seniors receive at least four hours of hands-on-care in long term care. Right now, it stands around three hours.

The Ontario Health Coalition is hosting a day of action Oct. 8, hoping people will rally at local MPPs offices to demand the government do more to help long term care.