The Haliburton-City of Kawartha Lakes Long-Term Care Coalition praised a report from a provincial commission highlighting systematic failure in the sector.

Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission released its final report April 30. The province tasked it July 2020 with investigating the state of the province’s long-term care (LTC) homes after hundreds of COVID-19-related deaths in the early days of the pandemic.

The report highlights the province as illprepared for the crisis and that the sector was an easy target for outbreaks after decades of neglect.

For coalition member Bonnie Roe, the information is not surprising.

“The neglect of our elderly has been systemic for probably 30 years,” Roe said.

The commission said there were numerous warnings LTC needed a significant overhaul and much of the infrastructure was outdated. It makes 85 recommendations for addressing LTC and pandemic preparedness, including a comprehensive inspection regime, increased funding, improving the level of care and licensees making counselling available for residents and staff.

Although the commission notes many of the issues were longstanding, it also lays blame at the current government for a slow response to the first wave of the pandemic and a lack of preparation for the second wave.

In a press release, Minister of LongTerm Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton said the province is already making improvements and vaccinations have decreased outbreaks at homes.

“There’s no question that residents and staff at long-term care homes and their families were disproportionally impacted by COVID-19,” Fullerton said. “We cannot let their experience be in vain – and we won’t.”

Advocates such as Roe and the Ontario Health Coalition have been calling for reform and the end of for-profit care. But the commission fell short of recommending that, stating that although COVID-19 has undermined their reputation, private “mission-driven” enterprises have a part to play going forward.

“The commission accepts that there are owners of ‘for-profit’ homes, mostly those that are mission-driven, who provide good care to their residents,” the report said.

“To me, that’s a step backwards considering how progressive the rest of the report is,” Roe said. “I don’t think profit should be involved in any way.”

Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) president and CEO Carolyn Plummer said the report is a “critical step in the right direction.” She said many of the report’s recommendations are already happening at their homes, but more work – and funding – will be needed for others.

“I am hopeful that this report will help form the basis for meaningful change,” Plummer said.

Roe said she is unsure of whether this report will bring about change.

“It could happen, I think, if the political will was there, and that’s what we need to see,” Roe said. “There’s a true lack of respect and I truly hope that maybe, with more public pressure, that the government will listen.”

LTC petition gains traction

The coalition is mounting that pressure, garnering more than 2,400 signatures for a petition after three weeks of circulation.

The petition is in support of ensuring four hours of direct care per resident per day; increasing infection prevention and health care expertise; improving working conditions; reinstating thorough inspections with consistent enforcement; changing nursing home culture to being more resident-centred, family/caregiver-centred, and rights-based; and taking the profit motive out of long-term care.

The petition is online and at Minden Pharmasave.

“We are very encouraged with this incredible level of support for fixing long-term care.” Said Haliburton resident and coalition member Lyn Ritchie, who was key in drafting the petition.

Kawartha Lakes representative, Mike Perry, added “fixing long-term care is topof-mind for local residents. The survey numbers demonstrate the level of concern.”

The coalition, formed last May, has received support from Concerned Citizens of Haliburton County, the Canadian Federation of University Women and Haliburton County Council.

The group said it is awaiting a motion of support from Haliburton Highlands Health Services.

The petition is available at ltcneedsyou.ca or by contacting Roe at 705-286-2414.

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