Calls for wider probe
New Democrats push for broader care home scope at inquiry into Elizabeth Wettlaufer
The most frail and elderly among us will be casualties to failing long-term care in Ontario unless an inquiry into the killing rampage by nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer is expanded to investigate the many ways long-term care homes are failing, New Democrats said Thursday.
“Long-term care in this province has reached a breaking point,” Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.
“Some families feel powerless as their parents or grandparents live in fear of resident-on-resident violence. And for many, understaffing means a lack of help, health and dignity. We’ve heard of residents left in bed for 18 hours. We’ve heard of residents who don’t get enough help for basic hygiene, or even to get to the bathroom on time. Most workers try their very best to deliver support and care, but they are run off their feet.”
“It doesn’t need to be this way,” Horwath said. “An expanded inquiry will give us an honest picture of systemic issues in long-term care — issues we can solve.”
In August, the Ontario government announced it had selected a former dean at Western University’s Faculty of Law, Justice Eileen Gillese, to lead an independent public inquiry into the circumstances and systemic issues which may have contributed to the assault and death of residents in Woodstock and London who were under the care of Wettlaufer.
As part of her mandate, Gillese will review accountability measures and provide recommendations to improve the safety and well-being of residents, producing a report by July 31, 2019.
But Horwath and NDP health critic Teresa Armstrong (London Fanshawe) say the scope of the inquiry must be broadened further to investigate systemic issues like quality of care, funding and staffing levels.
“Governments have ignored these issues, and ignored families, for too long,” said Armstrong. “Seniors care has deteriorated ever since the Conservatives fired 6,000 nurses and closed thousands of hospital beds, and families continue to be disappointed as conditions deteriorate further under Wynne. It’s time for a clear understanding of the issues in seniors long-term care – when we find the root causes of the problems, we can fix them.”
The inquiry comes more than three years after The Free Press uncovered how the government was failing to inspect nursing homes or follow its own laws, the revelations forcing then-health minister Deb Matthews (London North Centre) to hire an added 100 inspectors. But even with regular, annual inspections, the ministry lacked the resources to investigate complaints and critical incidents, creating a backlog highlighted a year and a half ago by Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.