A Jan. 29 Zoom town hall meeting brought Haliburton County and City of Kawartha Lakes residents together to share stories and ideas on how to fix long-term care.

“We have known there have been problems with the long-term care system for years,” said Bonnie Roe of Haliburton, co-chair of the new Haliburton-CKL Long Term-Care Coalition.

She added, “COVID-19 has really shed a tragic light on the crisis, the issues across our communities and across our province and throughout Canada,”

At the meeting, participants unanimously supported a list of measures they feel are needed to fix long-term care in Ontario, including:

• Putting long-term care under the Canada Health Act to ensure public funding and applying national standards;

• Increasing staffing to ensure at least four hours per day of direct care per resident immediately, not in 2024; raising wages of front-line workers; improving workloads, working conditions, and conditions for care; increasing infection prevention and control and nurse practitioner expertise in care; and enhancing specialized expertise in LTC leadership;

• Reinstating thorough annual Resident Quality Inspections of all Long-Term Care homes, with consistency in enforcement when inspections yield rule violations, including unannounced inspections;

• Changing the culture of long-term care to being more attentive to the value of elders, and increasingly resident and rights-based, including ensuring consistent implementation and safe expansion of the government of Ontario’s long-term care essential caregiver (visitor) guidelines;

• Exploring new models of care including from other countries that will make LongTerm Care feel more like home such as the Butterfly Model of Care and other income-inclusive models; and

• Ending using private sector, for-profit companies for new nursing homes in Ontario.

Mike Perry, whose late mother Mary was a resident of a nursing home in Lindsay, is the Kawartha Lakes co-chair of the coalition.

Perry said he was “thrilled” residents affirmed specific, concrete measures.

“This is about how we as a society value and care for our elders. We want local voices to be part of the solution provincewide and to make sure we support our frontline workers while working to fixing things. With so many people coming together and on the same page, there really is room to keep working with some hope,” Perry said.

The meeting included a presentation by Cathy Parkes of Canadians 4 National Standards.

She said the new coalition, “represents an important part of Ontario and hopefully all rural communities will follow their lead. We need to hear more from regions outside of major cities in Ontario, as long-term care affects the whole province. The awareness and dedication of this local coalition will help boost awareness for much-needed reform in long-term care,” Parkes said.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, was also a guest speaker. She said the percentage of LTC COVID-19 deaths in Canada is the highest in the world.

More information is available online at: ltcneedsyou.ca; email: hckllongtermcarecoalition@gmail. com; or call Bonnie in Haliburton (705- 286-2414) or Mike in CKL (705-934-2704) to get involved.

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