A group of 150 faith leaders is demanding that the government of Ontario do more to fix “serious systemic flaws” plaguing the province’s long-term care homes.
The leaders recently endorsed a letter that the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition sent to provincial officials late last month, accusing the provincial government of failing to take “appropriate action” to address problems within the homes. The letter is addressed to Premier Doug Ford and Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton and has been signed by 150 people, including several United Church clergy.
The letter writers express particular concern over the ways they say COVID-19 has made the already-poor conditions of long-term care homes worse.
“We are gravely concerned about the tragic impact the pandemic has had on long-term care homes,” reads the letter. “Those on the margins – the impoverished and the elderly – have been especially hard hit through this pandemic.”
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However, the authors argue this is a longstanding issue – and that the current government has ignored it. The letter points to understaffing, lack of funding and a “chronic shortage” of qualified people willing to work in homes as examples of systemic issues the government has failed to improve upon.
The letter also urges the government to accept the calls to action outlined in the Gillese inquiry, a 2019 report which made a number of systemic recommendations on how conditions in long-term care homes could be improved. The government of Ontario has previously promised that a commission to review the practices in long-term care homes would be established. Those plans have been delayed by the pandemic, but the letter urges the government to conduct the commission as soon as possible in a completely transparent and public way.
“The establishment of the Commission, however, should not delay the immediate implementation of measures to reduce the tragic consequences of COVID-19 now while the current outbreak continues to run its course,” reads the letter, which goes on to outline several immediate steps the government could take, including increased testing and greater distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) in homes.
Ford made headlines recently for stating that inspectors had refused to enter long-term care homes for fear of contracting COVID-19. As of May, 82 percent of COVID-19-related deaths in Canada had occurred in long-term care homes, according to the National Institute on Aging.
KC Hoard is Broadview‘s intern.
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