By Mike Baker
The percentage of long-term care COVID-19 deaths in Canada is the highest in the world, Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, told a group of around 50 Haliburton area residents earlier this month.
Speaking during a town hall forum hosted by the Haliburton-City of Kawartha Lakes Long-Term Care Coalition on Feb. 1, Mehra said statistics coming out of Canada’s retirement and nursing homes makes for grim reading.
As of Feb. 12, there have been 21,088 COVID-19 related deaths nationwide. A recent CBC report states that around 70 per cent of coronavirus deaths in Canada have been long-term care residents.
In doing the rough math, that means more than 14,750 of our seniors have died since the onset of the pandemic last March.
“We know there have been problems with the long-term care system for years. COVID-19 has really shed a tragic light on the crisis and the issues across our community, across our province and throughout Canada,” said Bonnie Roe, co-chair of the local LTC coalition.
She joined forces with Mike Perry, a local lawyer, in establishing the coalition last May. We told the duo’s story in the Jan. 26 edition of the Echo. In essence, the pair hope to inspire systemic change to the country’s long-term care system.
The coalition has established a list of six core priorities it intends to chip away at over the coming months. Right at the top of the list is advocating for the inclusion of long-term care to the Canada Health Act, a move that Perry says will completely change the way the sector operates.
“We need to fix the system. When you think about it, long-term care is considered to be a part of general healthcare. So, really, it should be under the Canada Health Act. Doing that does two things – it makes funding exclusively public, and it also provides national standards. Enforceable national standards,” Perry said.
The group also wants to increase staffing to ensure all residents receive at least four hours per day of direct care; reinstate annual resident quality inspections of all long-term care homes, with consistency in enforcement when inspections yield rule violations; explore new models of care; change the culture of long-term care to be more attentive to the value of elders; and stop for-profit companies from opening new nursing homes in Ontario.
During the meeting on Feb. 1, the 50 residents in virtual attendance voted unanimously to support a motion lobbying for those fixes to be implemented.
It was a moving moment for Perry, whose late mother Mary was a resident of a nursing home in Lindsay.
“This is about how we as a society value and care for our elders. We want local voices to be part of the solution province-wide and to make sure we support our front-line workers while working to fix things,” Perry said. “With so many people coming together and on the same page, there really is room to keep working with some hope.”
For more information on the coalition, visit www.ltcneedsyou.ca.