Fixing long-term care is key, locally and provincially

By MPP Toby Barrett

Fixing long-term care has always been extremely important for our government, and that commitment continues. The pandemic has highlighted the immediate need for action.

As a newly elected Mike Harris government member, one of my first meetings was with the board of Parkview Meadows in Townsend. That was 26 years ago, and we subsequently saw the commencement of new build at not only Parkview Meadows, but also at Grandview in Dunnville, Edgewater Gardens in Dunnville, associated with War Memorial Hospital, and Norview in Simcoe.

To my shock, during my 15 years in Opposition, we saw nothing locally for 15 years in Haldimand-Norfolk from either Premier McGuinty or Premier Wynne.

It was not until the return of the present administration, that we were to see announcements, again, for hundreds of new long-term care beds through new builds in Port Dover, Hagersville, Dunnville and Delhi.

Therefore, we now have eight long-term care facilities in Haldimand-Norfolk, either built or in the works – over 25 years of planning and hard work, and we recently, as of last Fall have a proposal from Norfolk General to replace the NGH Nursing Home.

On top of the pandemic and the challenges that it has presented, Ontario’s aging population continues to grow. Seniors and their families deserve to expect that they will receive long-term care that is mindful of more than just their medical needs, but of their needs as a whole person. We must ensure LTC must be delivered in a caring, comfortable and dignified environment.

The reality of long-term care in Ontario was that homes were operating at 99 per cent occupancy, with over 38,000 people on waitlists of almost five months. This unmet demand created pressures in hospitals, and contributed to hallway health care.

Thus, government is committed to build 30,000 new long-term care beds over the next decade, and we are well on our way to that goal. We currently have over 20,000 new and over 15,000 upgraded long-term care spaces in the development pipeline.

We are investing $4.9 billion over four years to help nurses and personal support workers (PSWs) in long-term care. This will allow us to deliver on our Canada-leading commitment to ensure residents receive on average four hours of care per resident per day. We have increased the pay for PSWs through the temporary wage enhancement of $3 an hour, benefitting 50,000 PSWs. That, on top of pandemic pay has helped homes recruit over 8,600 new staff.

The high level of vaccination in long-term care homes has allowed us to make changes that help homes safely resume communal dining and social activities. Further, with the proper protocols in place, caregivers can engage in close contact with their loved ones once again.

As we turn the corner and vaccines promise brighter days, we must continue to address the areas that have had shortcomings in long-term care. In the past, these shortcomings were neglected, or festered. We must learn from these mistakes and I assure you our government takes that duty seriously.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk