QUEEN’S PARK — Official Opposition NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and University-Rosedale MPP Jessica Bell, along with frontline workers, say the Ford government’s choice not to protect long-term care homes has led to a humanitarian crisis inside Toronto's St. George Care Community.
"People are suffering and dying, and families are losing their cherished parents and grandparents,” said Horwath. “Frontline workers report a complete lack of infection protections, and staffing levels so low that seniors are left to wither and suffer, whether they have COVID-19 or not. It’s a humanitarian crisis, and we cannot turn away and just let it continue like this.”
Horwath and Bell held a virtual press conference Wednesday with a PSW* who has worked at St. George for 20 years and contracted COVID-19 at the facility; and a paramedic* who has gone into St. George Care hundreds of times and witnessed severe understaffing.
“Frontline workers, families and experts have laid out the solutions needed to give people hope in long-term care — and it’s unconscionable that Doug Ford keeps choosing to ignore those desperate pleas,” said Bell.
The NDP is calling for at least 10,000 personal support workers hired urgently for all nursing homes, including St. George, and infection prevention and control professionals put into every single home. The NDP is also fighting for paid sick days for all workers, including PSWs. The PSW who joined Horwath and Bell on Wednesday said she does not have paid sick days. The NDP is also fighting for a substantial, permanent raise for PSWs, and to have their jobs turned into full-time positions.
The PSW reported severe understaffing and burned-out workers. Staff, she said, weren’t given directives regarding infection control measures, and COVID-positive patients were frequently moved from floor to floor, helping the virus spread. Understaffing means one PSW is often responsible for 48 residents. Because a single person has to handle all laundry for the entire 240-bed facility, staff have been given wet PPE like gowns — or none at all.
The paramedic said that understaffing has PSWs run off their feet at St. George. He pointed out that long-term care homes across the city are badly understaffed — a problem that started before the pandemic — but added that St. George is especially in a chaotic crisis.
Owned by the for-profit corporation Sienna, St. George Care has had, according to news reports, 156 residents and at least 50 staff that have tested positive for the virus since the outbreak at the home first began in December, and at least 17 resident deaths from the virus.
* The NDP is protecting the identity of these frontline care workers at their request due to fear of reprisal from their employer