Calling the Ontario PC government’s effort to ramp up long-term care reforms like a care standard and increased staffing “lethargic and inadequate”, over the weekend CUPE joined advocates urging military intervention to curb COVID-19 wave two infection outbreaks in care homes.

“We are tragically losing the battle to protect long-term care residents. The homes and staff are on the verge of total crisis and collapse,” says CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Candace Rennick. “But military assistance is just a temporary solution to the worsening crisis caused by the government’s failure to implement immediate and meaningful reforms needed month’s ago. This kind of crisis cannot continue to be met with half measures by the province.”

This week, the executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition called for the military to once again be sent into this province’s hardest hit long-term-care homes.

CUPE Ontario’s largest health care union has consistently called for the government to implement a robust staff recruitment and training initiative that provides for paid tuition and compensation for training, so that the 4-hour care standard that the government has committed to can happen in a quicker timeframe. This, says Rennick, should also come with an end to the expansion of for-profit beds and an immediate increase in staff compensation and access to full-time jobs to help to address worker retention in the sector.

“We call on the Ontario government to move immediately to enhance the working conditions for those providing care by providing stable, full-time employment,” says Debra Maxfield, Chairperson of CUPE’s Health Care Workers’ Coordinating Committee. “The current model of 60% of the workforce being casual and part-time has proven to be a disaster. A real recruitment program with tuition and paid training is urgently needed to bring the thousands of needed additional staff into the sector.”

There are currently 187 homes in outbreak with 1,186 positive residents and 1,050 positive staff. 2,749 residents have died. 8 of the 15 Ontario healthcare staff who have died, have died in long-term care.

“Staff working in long-term care are stunned that the government continues to allow the virus to prey aggressively on the most vulnerable members of our society”, says Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions-CUPE. “Action is urgently needed to bolster the threadbare staffing levels, which is why the army is such a key resource now. The practice of keeping residents with the virus in the same facility as those who are not infected must end immediately. And long-term care staff have to be equipped properly to work safely around the virus.”