The care our parents deserve: Horwath calls for full seniors care inquiry

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath announced Wednesday her plans for a complete public inquiry into the state of seniors long-term care in Ontario – not only into the circumstances that led to eight residents in care homes being killed; but an investigation into staffing levels, funding and safety conditions in care homes today.

“Our parents and grandparents deserve care that protects their safety, health and their dignity,” said Horwath. “But more and more, I’m hearing reports of residents left in bed for 18 hours, seniors who don’t always get the basic help they need to bathe and change their clothes regularly, and parents and grandparents who led dignified lives, and now aren’t always getting the help they need to get to the bathroom on time.

“Workers in care homes are doing the best they can – but they’re run off their feet and aren’t getting the support they need. It’s time to get to the bottom of these problems, then do something about it.”

Horwath laid out parameters for a two-phase public inquiry held under the Public Inquiries Act. She said if Kathleen Wynne fails to do the right thing and investigate the broader, systemic problems in long-term care, a New Democrat government would expand the inquiry immediately after the election.

“The last Conservative government made deep cuts to health care and front-line health care staff, and Kathleen Wynne did even more damage with cuts and underfunding,” said Horwath. “Together, they’ve swept problems under the rug and refused to talk about it.

“Ontarians know there is a crisis in long term care.  In safety, quality and availability that calls for a much broader inquiry than the one the government is proposing.  The government should not be afraid of a broader, fuller inquiry. We need an honest picture of the problems in seniors care homes throughout the province so we can take action to give our parents and grandparents the care they deserve.”

Horwath was joined at Queen’s Park Wednesday by families with loved ones in care, who echoed her call for a broad inquiry, and action. Donna Corewyn said that her mom returned to her care home from the hospital with a broken pelvis after a fall – only to be left in an upright recliner at the nurse’s station because the home did not have enough resources or staff to keep her safe in her room. 

Mira Bazzul said that she recently arrived at her mom’s seniors care home in Sudbury only to find that mom had been left in bed for 17 hours – and obviously hadn’t been assisted in getting up and with the morning routine hygiene, was not dressed and was left with a soiled brief, not fed breakfast, uncomfortable and at risk of infection.

"An independent public inquiry with a broad mandate is required to determine what went wrong in the Wettlaufer case and how to improve care for all residents. We see the problems in long-term care as a growing crisis that must be addressed now," said Jane Meadus, lawyer and institutional advocate with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE).

"More and more, we're hearing about vulnerable residents not receiving the care they need, overburdened staff and increased complaints about the quality of care in long-term care homes. Residents are uniquely dependent on long-term care homes and their staff for all their needs and we must ensure that the system is providing safe, quality care to all residents. 

"An inquiry into the Wettlaufer murders is necessary - and so is a broader inquiry into the care that residents receive across Ontario,” said Meadus.

The Wynne government put a new Long-Term Care Homes Act into effect in 2010. It doesn’t have any requirement at all for a minimum front-line-staff-to-resident ratio at long-term care homes.

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