May 28th, 2020

Horwath: Seniors, families and health care workers should have been heard all along

Beating COVID-19, fixing long-term care starts with an independent public inquiry that actually listens

QUEEN’S PARK — NDP Leader Andrea Horwath joined the families of long-term care residents Thursday via video conference to discuss how the deadly impact of COVID-19 on long-term care was, sadly, predictable. The state of long-term care was deplorable before the pandemic hit — but the government wasn’t listening to families, frontline workers and experts who were raising alarms. Now, the only way to make sure these voices are heard and long-term care is actually overhauled is through a comprehensive find-and-fix judicial public inquiry.

Horwath has been meeting via video conference with family members of long-term care residents throughout the COVID-19 crisis, and on Thursday she spoke with Lindsay Hunt, Shane Hunt, and Cathy Parkes, who have been calling attention to the dire problems their loved ones have been facing in long-term care — before and during the pandemic.

“The horrific conditions in long-term care homes revealed by the Canadian Armed Forces should not be news to Doug Ford, just as it should not have been news to Kathleen Wynne,“ said Horwath. “For the many, many people who have been sounding the alarm on long-term care – seniors in care, their family members, frontline health care workers, MPPs, and experts – the problems started long ago, but no government was willing to listen to those who spoke out.”

After the Canadian Armed Forces damning report on the crisis in Ontario’s long-term care homes was revealed earlier this week, the Ford government claimed it was in the dark about long-standing, horrific conditions in long-term care – despite court cases, inspection reports, media reports and, most importantly, the voices of those with loved ones in long-term care, who have been warning the government for years.

The Ford government cut $34 million from long-term care in 2018, and conducted only nine annual, comprehensive resident quality inspections in 2019 out of 626 long-term care homes.

Once the pandemic hit, families, staff, experts and MPPs called for the government to act quickly to take over unsafe homes, and quickly ramp up staffing and infection-control protocols – but the Ford government ignored the pleas.

Horwath says urgent action is still needed to protect the thousands of seniors still in long-term care, and that a comprehensive find-and-fix public inquiry needs to be launched to support systemic change. That change, the NDP believes, should include getting private for-profit corporations out of long-term care in Ontario, and transferring all homes into a public, community-based system.


Cathy Parkes, who lost her dad, Paul William Russel Parkes, amid a COVID-19 outbreak at Orchard Villa
“If everyone could stop talking for a moment and listen then you will hear the voices that have been speaking all this time, those of us who have gone unheard, who have been left in the dark, who have been fighting to save the people we love. You would hear us all say the same thing in one united voice – lift the roof off these homes and let us all look inside together. Hear us when we say we need a public inquiry, we need a criminal investigation, we need those who are still alive to be taken care of now, we need the end of for-profit long-term care homes in Ontario. ”

Lindsay and Shane Hunt, whose mom, Connie, contracted COVID-19 at Earls Court Village in London and is now in hospital
“After being left in a room with a COVID-19 positive resident, Connie contracted the virus too. As her condition deteriorated, we decided to remove her and take her to the hospital. We learned that she had been locked in her room for a month, she had been put in diapers despite being able to use the restroom with the aid of a walker, and she had not been bathed or had her hair washed in a month. There was just no dignity for Connie.”