July 24, 2020

An Open Letter to Premier Ford

Dear Premier Ford,

On May 28, 2020, you said to the people of Ontario, “We will do whatever it takes in our power to protect our most vulnerable seniors and ensure they get the care they deserve.”

Minster Fullerton echoed your concerns and acknowledged the crisis that our healthcare workers live every day: “We've been in a staffing crisis with our personal support workers for years. This has been an ongoing issue.”

We welcomed this week’s announcement of a new innovative Accelerated Build Pilot Program that will enable the rapid construction of long term care homes in Ontario. Building new and improving existing long term care homes is essential.

But it is equally imperative to ensure that enough qualified healthcare workers are available to breathe life, care, and humanity into these state-of-the-art buildings.

Premier, it is now time to take action on staffing issues in our healthcare system. It is time to recognize that our seniors deserve to have a PSW or a nurse when they need one, to live in a clean and safe home, and to be treated with the dignity and respect their humanity demands.

The hollowing out of the healthcare work has led to the crisis we are facing: less caring and more paperwork, falling wages in the face of growing demands, and working short-staffed every day knowing that your residents still did not get the care they needed.

With the introduction of Bill 195, healthcare workers face the prospect of working under the restrictions of emergency orders for another year, and perhaps longer. They will continue to put in long hours, with limited rest, and with limited protections from collective agreements that have been curtailed by emergency orders.

While we understand the need for some of the measures in these emergency orders, we also believe that healthcare workers and the conditions in which they work must be an urgent priority. We cannot continue to neglect vulnerable Ontarians, or those who care for them, and we call on this government to take the following immediate actions.

  1. Implement permanent funding for the continuation of the current pandemic pay, which will otherwise end on August 13. As long as low wages and precariousness persist, Ontario will not have enough workers to meet the needs of patients and residents.
  2. Commit to increased staffing.The work demands in long term care homes cannot be achieved at the current staffing levels, and even less so during a pandemic. We are grateful for the work of the Long-Term Care Staffing Study already underway, and we stand by the recommendations in our written submissions. The government must take swift action to enable long term care homes and other healthcare employers to attract and retain qualified workers and address the current critical staffing shortfall. The new beds the government has committed to build will require a ready, sustainable, and qualified workforce. We urge that the results of that study be made public quickly.
  3. Eliminate the one percent cap on compensation for employees working in not-for-profit long term care homes, homecare agencies, and in hospitals imposed by Bill 124. This bill prevents thousands of low-paid healthcare workers from receiving even cost-of-living compensation increases. The bill perpetuates a fundamental injustice, particularly for long term care and homecare workers who are selectively and arbitrarily targeted by its provisions depending on the business model of their employers.
  4. Amend Bill 195 and restore the hard-bargained worker rights curtailed at the height of the pandemic. Healthcare workers have gone above and beyond the call of duty to slow the spread of the pandemic and protect vulnerable patients. They are burnt out yet keep doing their part in the face of fatigue, stress, and fear. The continued emergency orders should not be used to deny them vacation or other earned and much-needed leaves from work or some of the other basic worker right protections available to other Ontarians.

Premier, we owe our parents and grandparents the care and dignity they need to age gracefully after their years of building and serving our country. To achieve that, we ask you to stand by your own words, and to stand alongside our healthcare workers so that they can make sure that every Ontario senior does indeed get the care they deserve.

Sincerely,

Ian DeWaard
Ontario Director