POLITICS
10/28/2020 17:26 EDT

Ontario NDP Urges Ford Government To Pass Minimum Care Law For Nursing Homes

This is the fourth time the NDP has tried to get this bill passed.

Frank Gunn/Canadian Press
Ontario Premier Doug Ford passes Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton during the government's daily briefing at Queen's Park in Toronto on May 28, 2020.

In March, Douglas Moody could brush his own teeth, feed himself, walk 30 metres, use the phone to call his family and use remotes to turn on his television, adjust the bed or call for help. He can no longer do any of those things. 

Janice Duffy says her 89-year-old father’s condition deteriorated drastically while she and her brothers were locked out of his long-term care home because of COVID-19 regulations. 

“With the isolation, the progression and decline in my dad was nothing short of remarkable,” she told HuffPost Canada in an interview. “It’s disturbing, to say the least.”

Duffy believes her father’s condition got worse because staff at his nursing home, The Village of Glendale Crossing in London, Ont., didn’t have time to care for him properly.

Courtesy Janice Duffy
Janice Duffy poses with her father Douglas Moody, who lives in a long-term care home in London, Ont.

Moody now needs round-the-clock care. Duffy and her brothers spend about 40 hours a week caring for him themselves, and spend $1,600 a week to get outside workers to go into his home and help.

Her father sometimes falls out of bed on purpose because otherwise he doesn’t get any attention, Duffy said. She also said she’s seen staff leave food in front of him and leave the room without helping him eat.

“I know the staff wants to do the right thing,” she said. “There just aren’t aren’t enough of them.”

The company that owns the home, Schlegel Villages, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Earlier: Premier Doug Ford defends COVID-19 lawsuit immunity. Story continues after video.

 

Duffy said she hopes the Ontario government will pass private member’s Bill 13 to require nursing homes to provide at least four hours of care to residents every day. Right now there is no legal minimum.

“At least it would be something that would be enforceable,” Duffy said, “to make sure they have to be staffed at a humane level.”

She joined NDP MPP Teresa Armstrong at a virtual press conference Wednesday to talk about Armstrong’s bill, the Time to Care Act.

“This is an urgent piece of legislation,” the London—Fanshawe MPP said. 

“Truth be told, I am appalled that we are still having to debate a bill that would legislate a minimum standard of care.”

Ontario Legislative Assembly
Ontario MPP Teresa Armstrong speaks in the legislature in Toronto on Oct. 28, 2020.

She said it’s the fourth time the Ontario NDP has tabled this bill since 2016. Every time, it passes first and second reading and then dies in the “black hole” of government committees. 

Bills that aren’t passed by the end of the legislative year must be reintroduced and go through the whole process again.

“It has been stalled over and over again ... by both the Liberals and the Conservatives,” Armstrong said. “Let me tell you why this time is different.”

She noted that more than 1,900 residents and staff have died of COVID-19 in Ontario’s long-term care homes. The government struck a commission due the first wave of infections to find out how this happened — and the commission told the government to pay for more staffing so that residents get at least four hours of care per day.

It has been stalled over and over again.MPP Teresa Armstrong

“This government has said that they will support this bill,” Armstrong said. “And it will be an empty gesture unless this bill is expedited through the due process into law, and significant investments are made towards it.”

Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton has said she’ll vote for the bill on its second reading. But she hasn’t directly answered questions about if she’ll fast-track the bill or vote for it on the final third reading. 

“So you would vote for it now but you’re not committing to voting for it when it could actually matter?” a reporter asked the minister Tuesday.

“Well, I think every action we take matters,” Fullerton said. 

Ministry promises staffing strategy

She also said the bill is “an important concept” and needs to be paired with funding and efforts to train and retain staff. Her ministry has promised a “comprehensive staffing strategy” by the end of the year.

Duffy said she’s not hopeful that change will happen in time to help her father. 

He was on the brink of death this summer, she said, but improved during a two-week hospital stay.

“I guess I’m kind of jaded at this point,” she said. “When I tell snippets of our story to anybody that doesn’t have any experience in long-term care, they’ll say to me, ‘Oh, Janice, you’ve got to be exaggerating. That can’t possibly be true, or people would be up in arms. There would be exposés written, there would be a public outcry.’

“And then I have to tell them how many exposés have been written and how many times this has made the front page of the paper.”