Locals are banding together to push for improvements to Ontario’s long-term care system and call for that care to be under the Canada Health Act.

The Haliburton-CKL Long-Term Care Coalition is a new public group made up of people from across both Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes. It formally announced itself Sept. 24 and seeks to address the deficiencies in long-term care made apparent by COVID-19.

Member Bonnie Roe said they feel bringing it into the Canada Health Act will help address those issues.

“There’s a real issue around the quality of care,” Roe said. “With COVID, it stretched staff, working hours, training. I think it’s just stretched people too thin.”

The coalition is also calling for an end to private, for-profit nursing home companies and a change in long-term care culture to become more resident-centred and rights-based. Roe said they have established contacts in other organizations, like the Ontario Health Coalition, with similar objectives. She said the group is getting a positive response.

“It affects everyone,” she said. “This issue is not new.”

Long-term care in the province came under scrutiny when the military, called in to assist amidst the pandemic, reported terrible conditions at some private long-term care homes. That prompted the province to launch an independent commission.

“Every publicly funded dollar and every dollar paid by the residents of long-term care should go to their care, not to profit corporate entities and their shareholders,” Haliburton member Brigitte Gebauer said in a press release.

Kawartha Lakes member and former federal NDP candidate Mike Perry said they have ambitious goals but there is a great need.

“We need to help our seniors, front-line workers, and families,” Perry said. “To build things back better, as any of us may need long-term care ourselves one day.”

The group is planning its first event in Haliburton Oct. 8, in solidarity with a day of action organized by the Ontario Health Coalition to call for long-term care improvements. Anyone interested in the group is encouraged to contact Roe at 705- 286-2414 or hckllongtermcarecoalition@gmail.com.

Roe said improved standards could help local care providers and prevent situations such as the roof leaks at the Highland Wood Long-Term Care Home in February 2019.

“We feel that the regulations, if they were under the Canada Health Act, would be for all long-term care facilities,” Roe said. “Hopefully, that would help prevent the issues.”

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