Calls for wider probe

New Democrats push for broader care home scope at in­quiry into El­iz­a­beth Wet­t­laufer

Sentinel-Review (Woodstock) - - NEWS - JONATHAN SHER

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.



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