OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says bringing Ontario’s long-term care directly and fully under public sector control and funding is the only way to fix a broken system that is falling apart during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We respect the conclusion drawn by a clearly emotional Premier Ford today that government must do a better job with long-term care,” said Thomas. “Today the Premier owned the sins of government decisions spanning the Harris, McGuinty and Wynne years. That took both courage and humility. But now comes the solution to owning the problem. And that solution is for the government to directly deliver these services.”
Successive governments in Ontario have been privatizing health care, scaling back inspections, selling off its assets and under-funding essential services for way too long, Thomas added.
OPSEU has been saying for years that the way back to prosperity and health is by investing in people and public services, he said. Essential public services have to be aimed at people, not profit.
“It was only a matter of time before all the cutting and slashing came back to bite us, said Thomas. “And now our seniors are bearing the brunt of years of privatization and mismanagement.”
Ironically, a lot of this started with Mike Harris who coincidentally is now Chair of the Board of Directors at Chartwell, a private company that runs a host of facilities including long-term care, Thomas noted.
An October 2019 report by the Financial Accountability Office of Ontario states that between 2011 and 2018, the number of long-term care beds in the province increased by less than one per cent while the population of Ontarians aged 75 and older grew by 20 per cent.
“So, while today’s government owns the problem, they didn’t create it overnight. But now it’s on the Premier to fix it,” said Thomas. “And we can help. Better pay, job security, a commitment to health and safety, the tightening of regulations and healthy dose of accountability are the keys to fixing a system on life support.”
Thomas says we all owe the residents of long-term care a great debt for working to create the society that we live in today and they deserve better. Much better.
“Mortality rates in this pandemic are skyrocketing for those over the age of 70,” says Thomas. “It was their generation that took such good care of us and this is how we pay them back? We leave them to suffer in under-staffed homes that are run by managers who put profits before people. It’s time to bring our senior’s homes back in house where they belong.”