For over 40 years, the Council on Aging of Ottawa has been a leading community voice for Ottawa’s seniors. The Council launched its campaign for long-term care reform: We Need Change Now! in February 2020. Little did we realize that the COVID-19 pandemic would reveal the many systemic weaknesses in the long-term care sector and tragically take the lives of so many of its residents and staff.
One of our key pillars for LTC reform is for more care to be delivered. Critical staffing shortages have been well documented in countless reports. Residents are neglected, and staff are overworked and burnt out. In February 2020, the Council recommended a legislated minimum daily average of four hours of direct care per resident- a care standard also recommended by the Government’s own LTC Staffing Study in July 2020 and by the COVID-19 Commission in 2021.
Despite the obvious need for more care in LTC, only 15 minutes of extra care have been promised for this year. The Council recommends that this care standard be implemented two years sooner than the government has planned. Why should residents wait four years for the care they need right now?
This province needs a comprehensive and well-resourced plan for seniors’ care including a robust health human resource strategy. The pandemic only strengthened the case for permanent wage increases, more full-time positions, paid sick leave and improved conditions of work in LTC. We also need to address serious recruitment and retention challenges.
LTC needs to fundamentally improve to ensure quality of life and quality of care for residents. Now is the time to reimagine and transform LTC. The Council on Aging of Ottawa will continue to work with its community partners to be a voice for these needed changes.
The underfunded, under-resourced patchwork of care supports for seniors isn’t working. Long term care can no longer be the forgotten and poorly funded health care partner. Nor can we continue to rely on the voluntary efforts of family and friends to provide needed care.
Seniors are losing faith in Ontario’s LTC homes and need to see concrete action that their provincial government cares and will not forget them post-pandemic.
Presented at NDP Press Conference on July 5 in Ottawa
by Nancy Garrard, Chair of the LTC Committee