Haliburton resident Bonnie Roe has been recognized for her ongoing work in support of seniors and advocating for change in Ontario’s long-term care system.
On Nov. 16 she was presented with an award from the Toronto-based Institute for Change Leaders at the organization’s fifth anniversary celebration held in the city. Roe was acknowledged for the pivotal role she has played in raising awareness over the myriad of issues senior residents have faced while living in long-term care homes throughout the pandemic.
Back in 2020, she, along with fellow local resident Mike Perry, formed the HaliburtonKawartha Lakes Long-Term Care Coalition after being left “appalled” by reports coming out of Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, where 29 people died after contracting COVID-19. Together, they vowed to take action in hopes of inspiring change in the industry.
The coalition identified six core priorities it wanted the Ontario government to address to improve conditions in the sector. High on that list was advocating for the inclusion of long-term care to the Canada Health Act. The group also called for the reinstation of annual resident quality inspections, exploration of new models of care, an increase to the number of hours of direct care residents would be entitled to each day, and a complete stop on any new for-profit long-term care or nursing homes being opened in Ontario.
Now, more than 18 months later, Roe said she’s proud to say the Haliburton-based coalition has made real ground on many of those files.
“We’ve come a long way,” Roe told The Highlander. “We’ve worked hard on our goals, formulated a campaign and a timeline, and maintained a strong voice over the past 18 months to let our provincial representatives know that we won’t just stand by while our seniors [are being neglected].”
Roe admits she was “completely blown away” when she learned she was to be honoured. She was told the Strategic Win for Change award she was set to receive was being presented in recognition of the work she had done in lobbying Haliburton Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott for greater support for seniors over the past 12 months.
“The Coalition used their resources of pressure and access to media to meet with their local MPP, ultimately calling her out in the local press for not acting. Within weeks $4 million in new funding to pay for more care in the local nursing homes was announced; great news for local seniors and workers, and a community win,” said Olivia Chow of the Insitute for Change Leaders, explaining why Roe was the perfect fit for this award.
While Roe said it was “quite an honour” to be recognized, she said the credit should be split equally among the HaliburtonKawartha LTC Coalition.
“Many of the members of our group have been involved since our inception, and it’s because of each and every one of them, who have the same passion and determination that I have to making a difference in long-term care, that we are where we are,” Roe said. “And believe me, we’re still going strong. There’s still a lot of work for us to do.”
Top of her list is pushing back against a proposed revision of the province’s LongTerm Care Act, which she says ignores calls to limit any new for-profit organizations from getting involved in long-term care. The new legislation recently received first and second reading at the Ontario Legislature.
As she reflects, again, on the award, Roe said she will use it to remember all of the seniors who have tragically passed away since the onset of the pandemic.
“I’m going to dedicate the award to all of the lives that were lost so unnecessarily due to neglect and COVID. And to all of the families who didn’t get to spend the final days with their loved ones. That’s why we’re here, that’s why we’re fighting for this,” Roe said. “Long-term care homes should be just that – a home. People should feel that the care they receive is above standards, not below. These facilities should feel like a home to our seniors. They should feel safe, and be able to live in dignity.”
To learn more about the HaliburtonKawartha LTC Coalition, visit ltcneedsyou.ca.