More staff needed at long-term care homes ahead of potential second wave, provincial health watchdog says
KITCHENER -- A provincial health watchdog is calling on the province to increase staffing levels at long-term care homes across Ontario.
The Ontario Health Coalition said homes won't be prepared if a second wave of COVID-19 arrives in the fall.
A study by the Ontario Health Coalition said staffing at long-term care homes was gotten worse.
"The evidence points to a second wave of COVID-19," executive director Natalie Mehra said. "The long-term care homes are not ready. They've already lost staff because of illness and they are afraid."
The coalition claims sick leave from the virus, mental health concerns and low wages is driving personal service workers to quit their jobs.
"You have to talk them off the ledges, they are fearful. They call me and I can't help them, because I don't know what to do for them," said Shelley Smith, a PSW with 30 years of experience. "I had someone say to me, 'Why is my life so undervalued?'"
The province intervened in about a dozen long-term care homes dealing with major COVID-19 outbreaks. St. Mary's Hospital took over management of Forest Heights Revera in Kitchener, where three-quarters of the residents and more than 70 staff tested positive for the virus. A total of 51 people died in that outbreak.
The coalition said staff levels at all care homes remain at critical levels.
Premier Doug Ford said he's aware there's a problem.
"We have a working group that we launched in February," Ford said. "By the end of this month, they are going to come forward on staffing issues we can correct."
Ford added Bill 195 will give the provincial government the ability to act quickly on staffing shortages.
However, those working on the front lines are worried about what's to come.
"I know there is a risk in our work, but having been lying there in emerg, almost died, I don't want this to happen to anyone," said Joadel Concepcion, who contracted the virus in her role as a nurse. "September is coming. It's very scary."
Earlier this month, the province promised 30,000 new long-term care beds over the next decade. However, critics, including the Ontario Health Coalition, are worried the staff shortage will only get worse if it's not addressed now.