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Peterborough-area health coalitions calling on province to fix issues with long-term care

Click to play video: 'Peterborough-area health coalitions calling on province to fix issues with long-term care' Peterborough-area health coalitions calling on province to fix issues with long-term care
Three Peterborough-area health coalitions are now banding together demanding the Ontario government pick up the pace in fixing issues at long-term care homes. Mark Giunta reports – Jun 22, 2021

Health Coalitions in Peterborough, Northumberland County and the City of Kawartha Lakes say long-term care (LTC) living conditions and staffing levels remain top issues in Ontario.

The three coalitions commissioned a survey of LTC front-line workers in all three of the communities and released the findings in a virtual media conference on Tuesday.

It found 70 per cent of respondents said that staffing levels have not returned to pre-pandemic levels at local facilities and 76 per cent stated they worked short-staffed daily.

READ MORE: Ontario eases long-term care COVID-19 rules by allowing ‘brief hugs’ despite vaccine status

“Long-term care is primarily staffed by part-time workers,” said Marion Burton of the Peterborough Health Coalition, noting the workers have “no benefits, low wages and no paid sick time.

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Bonnie Kennedy of the Kawartha Lakes Health Coalition discussed a lack of preparedness by the province and long-term care homes for a health-care crisis such as the pandemic.

“The deficiencies in the system are tragedies waiting to happen again and must be repaired,” she said.

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Roy Brady of the Peterborough Coalition said he had called around to all eight facilities in the area and said only three of them had full air conditioning in residents’ suites.

“Although COVID-19 caseload and deaths are low in the Peterborough area, relative to most parts of Ontario, long-term care conditions are not good enough locally.  Air conditioning [is] one vital that residents need now,” he said.

Global News Peterborough asked the Ministry of Long-Term Care about some of these concerns.

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On staffing, the ministry stated, “we have launched the largest long-term care staff recruitment and training drive in the province’s history and are investing $4.9 billion over four years to help create more than 27,000 new full-time positions for personal support workers, registered nurses and registered practical nurses in long-term care.”

READ MORE: Ontario fiscal watchdog says province 2 years behind goal of 15,000 new LTC beds by 2024

With respect to air conditioning, the ministry stated, “we are also investing $246 million over the next four years to improve living conditions in existing homes, including ensuring homes have air conditioning for residents.  As of May 15, 2021, all long-term care homes are required to have designated cooling areas with air conditioning — and all 626 long-term care homes in Ontario are in compliance.”

“Currently, 60 per cent of homes are fully air-conditioned, including in all resident rooms, compared to 42 per cent last summer.  An additional 23 per cent of homes are working toward being fully air-conditioned as soon as possible. This means at least 83 per cent of homes will have full air conditioning by this summer.”

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All three coalitions wrapped up the survey report by calling on the province to end for-profit LTCs, hire additional qualified staff without fast-tracking students, ensure all LTC residents receive at least the minimum of four hours of direct hands-on care per day, set a minimum pay standard and ensure a minimum of 70 per cent of staff at each LTC home are full-time.

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According to the Peterborough Health Coalition Facebook page, a long-term care protest is planned at Queen’s Park on Sept. 13.

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