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Union representing staff at long-term care homes calls for change as ombudsman launches investigation
Flowers sit on a bench in front of Orchard Villa care home in Pickering, Ont. on Monday April 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
TORONTO -- On the first day of seniors’ month, the province’s ombudsman launched an investigation into Ontario’s oversight of long-term care homes during the pandemic.
“We are uniquely positioned to look into the ‘how’ and ‘why’, and to propose constructive solutions,” Paul Dube told CTV News Toronto on Monday.
This comes less than a week after the Canadian Armed Forces issued a scathing report on conditions in the five long-term care facilities where its personnel were sent to assist in April.
“When the armed forces report came out, it just put it right before our faces such a stark situation that I could not live with myself if we did not contribute our expertise to the analysis of the situation,” Dube said.
At an event commemorating the 78 seniors who lost their lives at Orchard Villa Retirement Community – one of the hardest hit long-term care homes in the province – the union representing front-line workers told CTV News Toronto that none of this should come as a surprise to anyone.
“The front-line staff have been ringing the alarm bells about conditions such as what you read in that report for decades,” Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, said.
Stewart said the ombudsman’s investigation is a good start, but added that workers still want a public inquiry.
“There has to be a total reform in this sector. We have to go deep and find out is there really a place for for-profit corporations in here”
A personal support worker, who was among the 150 front-line workers and family members who gathered outside Orchard Villa in Pickering on Monday, said she doesn’t believe so many residents needed to die.
“This is just too sad, too many people was dying, too many people. One minute you saw them, next day they were dead,” the woman, who wished to not be identified, said. “You should have been doing better testing than that, than to have all these people dying like that.”
Speaking to CTV News Toronto after they laid down flowers in front of the facility, family members shared in that sentiment.
“It should never have happened,” Andrea Douglas, whose mother Mable tested positive for COVID-19 at Altamount Care Community in Scarborough 39 days ago, said.
“It’s sadness, it’s very much sadness. A lot of these residents who’ve died beside mom I’ve known from going in and out.”
Another woman, whose grandmother lives at Orchard Villa, said she’s been very worried the last few months.
“I don’t even have words for it,” the woman, who wished to only be identified as Kelly, said. “It was shocking and disturbing and awful. It just makes you think about how all this happened, and see all the underlying issues with funding and not enough PPE on stock and not enough staff.”
For his part, the premier said he welcomes the ombudsman’s investigation.
“I need answers, I want answers, and we need to get this fixed and we’re going to get this fixed,” he told reporters Monday. “Our eyes are all over this and to be very frank — everyone in Ontario’s eyes are all over it.”