Today’s announcement by Premier Kathleen Wynne in response to the public outcry for legislating minimum care standards for seniors living in long-term care falls far short of what they’re packaging it to be, says Candace Rennick, Secretary Treasurer of CUPE Ontario who has been leading the campaign for four hours of direct hands on care.

“We’re happy the Premier and Minister of Health have finally recognized the need to increase hours of hands on care for seniors in long-term care homes, but sadly today’s announcement is not what it seems,” says Rennick. “Right now, the government counts workers who are off sick or on vacation as if they are by the bedside. This doesn’t help seniors when they’re calling for help to the bathroom.”

“While we’re pleased that the government has finally acknowledged it may not be legitimate to include hours spent on vacation, stat holidays and sick time as ‘direct care hours’, it’s staggering that they refuse to rule it out,” say Rennick. “CUPE will continue to insist that a 4 hours average is not legitimate if it includes hours not spent in the workplace giving care to residents.”

“We are also concerned that the government has offered no timeline for it’s roll-out and does not legislate a minimum standard of care,” says Rennick. “Without legislated care standards there is no guarantee that seniors will get the on going care they need and deserve.”

Currently, the only legal guarantees for seniors living in long-term care are one on-site nurse 24 hours-a-day, and two baths a week. Canada has the lowest care levels among countries with equivalent economies, and Ontario has the lowest in Canada.

There are more than 78,000 people living in Ontario long-term care homes. The majority of residents in Ontario long-term care homes are over 85, almost three-quarters have some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia, and the vast majority have mobility issues.

“Our members have been working hard for years to get the government to take action,” says Heather Duff, chair of CUPE Ontario’s Health Care Workers Sector. “We hope that the government will move swiftly to increase bedside care for all the seniors who are suffering today.”

“Today’s announcement is a direct result of all the work CUPE Ontario members did to raise awareness of how badly increases in direct hands on care are needed,” says Duff. “We should be very proud of the work we’ve done here. And make no mistake our long-term care workers are not going to stop pushing until they know that their residents are getting the level of care they need.”