From high death rates in long-term care homes, concerning levels of health care worker infections and low COVID-19 testing,  more than 2200 Sudbury and North Bay residents polled, say the provincial government is underperforming in how it is dealing with the pandemic response.

While northeastern Ontario has not seen the high levels of COVID-19 infections as the province’s south, when asked whether the province had planned properly for the pandemic, more than twice as many said the government had not planned properly than said the government had planned properly. In Sudbury 68.3 per cent and in North Bay 66.5 per cent said they didn’t think the province planned properly to deal with the pandemic.

The poll conducted for the CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE) and Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario earlier this spring was released today on the heels of a shocking report from the Canadian military whose soldiers are currently assisting in five Ontario long-term homes. Four of the five homes are for-profit and privately owned.

Across Ontario, more than 1538 long-term care residents have died from COVID-19 and hundreds of front-line staff are infected with the virus. CUPE has consistently raised concerns that very ill residents with COVID-19 were not being taken for higher care in hospitals.

When asked whether the government should move long-term care residents ill with COVID-19 symptoms to hospital, to protect the other residents” more than twice as many said yes as those that said no, they should not be moved. “This government cancelled inspections of long-term care facilities last year at the request of the long- term care industry and has effectively prevented long-term care residents with COVID-19 from being transferred to hospital. This government has turned a blind eye and has a lot to answer for. But all of us owe so much more to this generation in our care and it’s time to face that squarely,” says Michael Hurley, President of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions/CUPE.

As of May 26, 4485 health care workers were infected with COVID-19. Twelve of them have died. Consistently hospital and long-term care workers who are members of CUPE have said they do not have access to the equipment such as N95 to work safely. The province has been clear that the supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) is low and that health staff must not waste PPE.

“LTC care staff care staff have loudly told the Premier and his ministers that they are often denied PPE or told to ration and reuse masks and gowns,” says Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “The same military report “supports what health care workers have been telling the government, that the PPE they need to protect themselves and residents, simply is not being made available to them.” Asked whether they thought the province needed to toughen its standards for protecting health care staff, 84.4 per cent in Sudbury and 82.5 per cent in North Bay said yes.

Testing for COVID-19 in Ontario is lagging. Other countries with aggressive testing have many fewer deaths. When asked would you like to see Ontario significantly increased testing, both communities showed high support for widespread COVID-19 testing with 85.8 per cent of respondents in Sudbury and 83.9 per cent in North Bay saying yes. Similarly, 89.4 per cent in Sudbury and 85.5 per cent in North Bay think all hospital patients and staff should be tested for the virus.