Friends & neighbours,
I wanted to share with you my response to the disturbing report released today from military personnel working -- at the request of the provincial government -- in five Long Term Care facilities in Ontario.
This will be all over the news and rightly so. I will be in the Legislature tomorrow and you can be assured i will be asking the Ontario government some tough questions.
I did want to offer a quick personal perspective on this. Back in the late 90's and early 2000s I was a health policy researcher. During that time, two of the biggest issues I worked on were long term care/nursing homes and the SARS pandemic. Today we heard the Premier's shock and horror at the military report... and I believe anyone who reads it will be horrified and disgusted. But I want to share with you that for many years, through several governments, workers in these institutions have been raising alarms.... opposition has also been raising alarms. And many families have also tried to change the system.
More recently, the Conservative Government cut funding to long term care homes AND shifted the way they do inspections, resulting in only NINE real (proactive) inspections in the last year. There are more than 600 long term care homes in Ontario. When the Liberal government attempted to scale back inspections in 2016, there was massive public outcry. This is not a new issue.
Indeed, our own Davenport neighbours -- Pat and Hugh Armstrong -- have been leading the research in this area for many years and have called for an end to for-profit long term care, and many of the protections for workers in this sector that governments seem to be suddenly waking up to in midst of a pandemic. I spoke with them just last week and they continue to inspire. Here's a story and interview with Pat Armstrong that I encourage everyone to listen to: (here)
On April 28, 2020 I wrote a letter to the Minister of Long Term Care outlining a series of issues raised by constituents regarding the treatment of family and staff in Long Term Care. You can read it here. I have yet to receive a response.
The Leader of the Official Opposition and our Caucus are calling for the Minister's resignation, a full public inquiry and for the government to immediately take action to put homes under public control ... at the start of this pandemic I predicted publicly that we would see a 'massacre' of the aged and vulnerable, based on my knowledge of the sector. I wish I had been proven wrong.
I wanted to write tonight to share this because I worry that there may be a sense that 'no one saw this coming' or that we couldn't know how the pandemic would hit these institutions. The truth is that workers in these facilities have been warning us for years and years. Researchers have been warning. But the for-profit long term care lobby is powerful and politically connected... and here we are. more to come following Question Period tomorrow.
Until then, stay well and stay safe.