April 20th, 2020

Least protected, most affected: Horwath calls on Ford to heed data, take overdue action in LTC

QUEEN’S PARK — New data revealed Monday points to long-term care, retirement homes and other congregate settings as bearing the brunt of the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition NDP, says homes were left vulnerable in the first place — and the government needs to listen to the data and act today to do more to protect people.

“It’s a relief that we may now be at the peak of the COVID-19 infections in Ontario, thanks to the hard work and exceptional precautions being taken by Ontarians,” said Horwath. “But it’s clear now that the peak for everyday Ontarians may not be the peak for seniors and vulnerable people in care.

“The government ought to have known long-term care and group home settings were a disaster waiting to happen because of years of underfunding, neglect, a lack of regulation and inspection, and horrible understaffing. They should have been better prepared and stepped in much earlier to remedy these wrongs which made people in care incredibly vulnerable. There’s no excuse for the delays, but today — right now — the government can still take action to protect people and stop tragedy from striking more lives, and more families.”

Horwath said, despite being tragically late, the government should:

  • Step in to take over direct management of long-term care facilities where residents aren’t protected enough
  • Immediately restrict all workers in congregate care settings to one facility only, including temp agency workers
  • Regularly and systematically test all residents and staff in congregate care facilities, in addition to testing people who are showing symptoms or have had contact with an infected person
  • Provide and mandate full personal protective equipment (PPE), using the precautionary principle, for all workers in congregate care settings — not just those with outbreaks already discovered
  • Raise wages for long-term care, home care and assisted living or group home facility staff to at least $22 an hour, and launch and aggressive recruitment and retention strategy
  • Provide hotel or other single accommodations for workers who live with vulnerable people or other essential workers so they can isolate in between shifts

According to the data released Monday, at least 367 of 591 deaths have been in long-term care – 62 per cent. That number doesn’t include group homes, like Participation House in Markham, retirement homes or other types of assisted and congregate living.