We can’t assume the worst is over, and allow the Ford government make the same mistakes again, said Horwath
QUEEN’S PARK — With more and more families coming forward to share their stories, Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath renewed the NDP’s call for the government to take over all struggling long-term care homes, saying it’s clear people were sounding the alarm well before the government finally stepped in at a handful of facilities.
Alongside families, the NDP has been calling on the Ford government since April 20 to take over long-term homes that weren’t protecting residents well enough, when the death toll in long-term care homes was about 350. Since then, more than 1,400 more people lost their lives to COVID-19 in long-term care, bringing the tragic death toll to near 1,800.
“Hundreds of families have been left to not only grieve the loss of their loved one, but to be haunted by the question: Would my mom or dad or grandparent still be here if the government had stepped in sooner?” said Horwath. “Families have been desperately pleading for help for weeks and weeks, only to be ignored by a government that has claimed to be doing everything in its power to protect seniors while doing far too little, far too late.”
Maureen McDermott is one of those family members who had been sounding the alarm before the government finally took over River Glen Haven, the long-term care home where her mom, Elsie, lives. McDermott didn’t find out her mom had contracted COVID-19 until Mother’s Day, when she went for a window visit and learned her mom had been moved into a group of symptomatic residents because she had a runny nose.
There were many things that raised red flags for McDermott: getting hung up on six times when she called to check up on her mom; lack of proper personal protective equipment; and woefully inadequate staff-to-resident ratios. Her mom has now recovered, but many other residents of River Glen Haven haven’t been so fortunate. By the time the government stepped in at the home, no fewer than 20 people had died.
“A handful of facilities have entered or re-entered outbreak status in the past few days,” said Horwath. “We can’t just assume the worst is over, and allow the Ford government make the same mistakes again, leaving the residents of long-term care homes vulnerable.
“Listen to Maureen. Listen to everyone like Maureen who has been raising alarm bells, and calling for action and change.”
The NDP has been pushing for a full, independent, public judicial inquiry that is needed to get to the bottom of all the problems in long-term care, but Horwath said immediate, obviously urgent changes — like increasing staffing levels — shouldn’t wait.
“My mother, Elsie McDermott, from Scotland, is 92, has COPD, Alzheimer’s and dementia. She has overcome the loss of all four of her sons, served in the royal British navy, and now has recovered from COVID-19. She is a pillar of strength and she’s all I have left from my immediate family. She resides at River Glen Haven, the worst hit LTC in York region. 33 lives have been lost so far, and it’s 33 too many. Privately run LTC are a scene of elder genocide. Back in April we were screaming and begging for them to call in more help. The lack of transparency and no to little communication with our loved ones was sheer torture and constant fear of ‘that’ call coming at any time.”