October 13, 2020 -
Government Dereliction of Duty Continues
Across Ontario Participate
in Long-Term Care Day of Action
October 8, 2020
Ontario Health Coalition Briefing
on Long-Term Care Outbreaks,
Funding and Staffing
• Photos of October 8 Day of
Labour Relations Board Dismisses Union's Case
Unions Fight for Right to Participate in Deciding Appropriate
Education Is a Right Podcast
• Educators Roundtable --
Update from Alberta and Ontario
Government Dereliction of Duty Continues in
Twenty-five communities across Ontario held events on October 8, the
Day of Action called by the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) for
improvements in long-term care (LTC) in Ontario. People set up pickets
in front of the offices of MPPs, held rallies and car cavalcades,
including one at the provincial Legislature in Toronto.
months' experience since the onset of the pandemic and the dismal
failure of Ontario to protect seniors and their caregivers throughout
the first wave, the situation in the LTC system in Ontario remains
dire. The demands raised across Ontario on October 8 included calls for
immediate government action to address staffing shortages, to enforce
the minimum standards of care recommended by the Registered Nurses'
Association of Ontario and others, for adequate protection for
frontline health care workers, and to put an end to for-profit delivery
of long-term care services.
Speaking at a press
conference at Queen's Park in Toronto, OHC Executive Director Natalie
Mehra said there are currently large COVID-19 outbreaks in Toronto and
Ottawa and increasing outbreaks in regions across Southern Ontario.
"The Coalition has been tracking outbreaks since early March and has
now counted 51 currently active outbreaks in long-term care homes and
40 outbreaks in retirement homes across Ontario," she said.
Meadus, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, echoed the
concerns about inadequate care in her statement. She said: "Residents'
conditions have deteriorated as a result of isolation, loneliness, and
inadequate care. Family caregivers cannot be shut out again and
staffing and care levels must be addressed as a priority."
Dr. Amit Arya, a
palliative care physician in long-term care homes and an OHC board
member said: "The second wave is already impacting long-term care
facilities. Every day of inaction counts. Ontario needs to change the
way we are addressing this crisis situation now." Dr. Arya went on to
call for a legislated staffing standard that would result in four hours
of hands-on care, and noted it needs to be enforceable. He said that
the government needs to put its full weight and resources behind
reaching that target.
"We need to ensure that all
the staff have access to full-time work, a living wage, sick leave and
are only in one long-term care home. Residents need their family
caregivers and that needs to be protected in law. Medical teams need to
be ready to stand by and provide support and intervention early when
there are outbreaks," he stated.
Forum reports on a recent briefing in which the OHC sheds
light on current outbreaks in LTC facilities and staffing shortages and
government attempts to disinform the public with its numerous recent
On October 6, two days before
the Ontario Day of Action for Long-Term Care, Natalie Mehra, Executive
Director of the Ontario Health Coalition, gave a briefing on the
current state of affairs in the Ontario long-term care (LTC) system and
discussed government announcements in the past week around funding and
staffing. Below are excerpts from her presentation.
We are in a
second wave, it appears, and things are getting more serious daily.
There are now about 50 outbreaks in LTC homes across the province. Some
are small -- one or two people -- but some are quite large,
particularly in Ottawa, where about a third of the province's outbreaks
are happening. Extendicare West End Villa is the worst. More than 100
people, staff and residents, have been infected and I am sorry to
report that I believe 19 have died. There are also outbreaks at five
other homes in Ottawa and large outbreaks in Toronto as well.
What we have not seen is any fundamental change in the
response to outbreaks in homes [...] Extendicare West End Villa
provides alarming evidence that the standards set by the Ontario
government for homes have not changed since last spring. Extendicare
reported on September 11 that there was enough PPE (personal protective
equipment) in the home. The Ministry of Long-Term Care spokesperson
said they believe that there was enough staff in the home. The feeling
of family members and staff was completely the opposite.
of Safety Standards Throughout the System
reported anonymously to the CBC (because they could be fired for
speaking out) that frontline staff treating COVID positive residents
did not have access to N-95 masks in Extendicare West End Villa. More
than two dozen staff had contracted COVID-19 by that time.
loved ones being in a room shared with residents showing COVID-19
symptoms. It wasn't until days later that the person was tested. It was
still another 24 hours before that COVID-19 positive resident was moved
to isolation. In the meantime three people were sharing one bathroom
with the COVID-19 positive resident. Another family described their
loved one being COVID positive, in a room with the door open, with
other residents walking in and out without proper isolation and
It was not until two weeks ago that
Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health ordered The Ottawa Hospital to take
over the management of the home [as well as Extendicare
Laurier -- WF ed. note] and send in a rapid response unit to
help. That was well after over 90 residents and staff had contracted
COVID 19. As of the most recent reports that home is still waiting for
270 test results.
It was expected that
province-wide standards would be in place with a threshold set -- one
or two people infected -- which would trigger specific measures being
snapped into place: additional staffing; infected residents moved to
where they can receive safe care in a hospital or field hospital [...]
What is clear from Ottawa is that there is no systemic approach.
Since summer nothing
has been done to improve staffing levels in LTC homes across Ontario
[...] Many homes report a worse staffing situation at the end of the
first wave than they had at the beginning.
July we did a survey of staff at LTC homes to determine if there were
more or fewer staff now than at the start of the pandemic. The majority
said there were fewer. More than 93 per cent said they were working
short-staffed every day. It was better in the public and not-for-profit
homes but across the board, staffing is still inadequate in LTC homes.
Even with the
announcements of government funding in the last few weeks, no measures
have been taken to get the thousands of staff that are needed into the
homes to get care up to safe levels. In the last week and a half the
government announced a bump up in funding for homes which is
significant -- about $403 million to offset COVID-19 specific costs.
That amounts to about $44 million for all the 626 LTC homes in Ontario
each month [of which 58 per cent are privately owned, 24 per
cent non-profit/charitable, and 16 per cent are municipal -- WF ed. note].
That is significant. However the money from the summer has not flowed
yet. June funding was received in September. Homes are still waiting
for July and August money. That may help explain why we didn't see
staffing improvements in June and July.
number of staff the government has announced funding for is far too
few. For health care, in total, they announced 3,700 new staff. But
when we look more closely, these are not fully funded. They announced
$18 million for a nursing graduate guarantee program that is supposed
to provide 600 nurses focused on long-term care and in hospitals. That
amounts to $30,000 per nurse. That does not actually translate into 600
new nurses. It may top up some part-time nurses to full-time, but it is
not enough to provide 600 new nurses. They announced up to $8 million
for 800 nurses in areas of need across the province. That amounts to
$10,000 per nurse. Again $10,000 does not pay a full-time nurse. These
announcements have been a lot of PR without really a lot of substance.
We have a very serious problem and we are extremely concerned
as a Health Coalition. We have not seen measures that will stabilize
the workforce and we are now into a second wave. LTC homes have less
resilience to deal with an outbreak when it happens than in the first
wave. Staff have worked a lot of overtime and made enormous sacrifices
and we will see more leave the sector in this second wave. Unless we
see government action now -- it really needed to happen months ago --
we are very concerned for people living and working in long-term care.
Sault Ste Marie
Labour Relations Board Dismisses Unions' Case
On October 1, the Chair of the
Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) dismissed the health and safety
case of the unions representing teachers and education workers on the
reopening of schools during the pandemic. The ruling was
based on jurisdictional grounds without the Board hearing substantive
evidence. The Chair stated that the Board's jurisdiction is limited to
appeals of orders made by inspectors under the Occupational
Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and that no such order was made
by an inspector, therefore the Board has no jurisdiction to hear the
At the end of
August, representatives of Ontario's four major unions representing
teachers and education workers issued a request to the Minister of
Labour that orders be made requiring the Ministry of Education to set
standards around physical distancing, cohorting, ventilation, and
transportation for a safe reopening of schools. Following the failure
of the Ministry of Labour to respond to their requests, the Association
des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the
Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English
Catholic Teachers' Association (OECTA), and the Ontario Secondary
School Teachers' Federation (OSSTF), announced, on August 31, that they
would appeal to the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). The appeals
argue that the Ministry of Education's "Guide to Re-Opening Ontario's
Schools" does not take every reasonable precaution to protect workers,
as required by Section 25(2)(h) of the OHSA. This section of the Act
says that an employer must "take every precaution reasonable in the
circumstances for the protection of a worker."
the OLRB refused to hear the unions' evidence on the basis that it has
no jurisdiction to do so, the OLRB Chair, in his ruling, lectures the
unions that the Ministry of Education did not agree with the union
proposals at the Provincial Working Group -- Health and Safety, which
is the body mandated to "review health and safety issues with
system-wide application and make recommendations to the Ministry of
Education and Ministry of Labour" or in any other forum.
also states that as far as the Ministry of Education's guide that was
made available to schools and school boards is concerned, the Ministry
did not represent it as a document that was to conform to the
requirements of the OHSA. He said that the OHSA was never intended as a
vehicle for a system-wide or province-wide remedy.
That the Unions Are Seeking
standards that the unions are demanding include:
- That class size be set at 15-20 students, wherever two-metre
distancing cannot be maintained in a given classroom.
- That cohorts
for student-to-staff contacts be set at 50 and be applicable not just
to students but also staff.
- That the "School and
University Reopening Standards" of the American Society of Heating,
Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers be set as the
minimum standards for ventilation in schools and other education
- That the busing and transportation standards of
the Ontario Public Services Health and Safety Association be set as the
minimum standards for busing and other forms of student transportation.
- That all students be required to wear non-medical masks at
all times during the school day, subject to reasonable exceptions for
medical accommodations, as masking is fundamental to safety in this
- That all standards ordered by the
Ministry of Labour in respect to COVID-19 be reviewed every month for
continuing compliance with the best science available at the time and
be replaced by more stringent standards as the science dictates.
Challenges Facing Working People
Based on the
October 1 ruling from the OLRB, the teachers and education workers have
no recourse to get province-wide standards through the Ministry of
Labour, the Ministry of Education, the state agencies pertaining to the
health and safety of the people, or the OHSA itself.
This reveals that our so-called democratic institutions do not enable,
but block working people from participating in making decisions about
the affairs of society. By fighting to be involved in setting standards
for safe schools during this pandemic, teachers and education workers
have brought to light something very fundamental about the way our
society is organized to marginalize and disempower the polity. Things
need to change.
Ontario educators are not alone. In
Quebec, the Superior Court recently defeated an application by the
Autonomous Teachers' Federation (FAE) for an interim injunction to
force the Quebec government to inform the FAE and Quebeckers of its
plan for accelerated COVID-19 testing in the school system because
there is no such plan! The Court goes further by supporting the claim
of the government that such a plan for the school system would favour
the teachers at the expense of rapid testing for all and would force a
reallocation of resources that would be detrimental to other sectors of
society, especially its most vulnerable members.
Do Workers Make of This?
Our society is in a
serious crisis. The pandemic is not even the half of it. Blocking the
people from participating in making decisions that affect society, such
as how to safely reopen and operate schools, exacerbates the already
existing crisis of confidence and credibility of our unrepresentative
democracy and its institutions. Once truth about a situation is
revealed, it cannot be erased from our collective consciousness. There
is no going back. Profound changes are needed.
1. Ontario Labour
Relations Board Case No: 1228-20-HS; Case No: 1236-20-HS; Case No:
1239-20-HS; and Case No: 1240-20-HS
Is a Right Podcast
Episode 64: Second
National Educators Roundtable
Part 1 -- Alberta
In this episode recorded on October
11, 2020, educators from Alberta
and Ontario provide an update on the state of education in the midst of
the pandemic in their provinces.
To listen, click
access articles individually click on the black headline.)
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