Government Continues to Stall on Implementing Necessary Reforms While COVID-19 Spreads Through Care Homes
TORONTO, April 23, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The health crisis currently facing care homes has been a disaster waiting to happen for years. Due to low average pay, care home workers often work in two or more care centers to make ends meet. The government’s slow response in addressing these poor working conditions has meant that the virus has spread quickly throughout care homes, as workers serve in multiple sites.
The Ontario provincial government has taken fledging steps to pass legislation to address the COVID-19 crisis in care homes. But it remains insufficient: the legislation does not cover assisted living facilities and group homes. Many centres continue to fall through the cracks of this porous legislation, resulting in devastating outbreaks such as the one at Participation House Markham.Ivy Albania is a Personal Support Worker (PSW) working for Participation House Markham. She says, “We don’t get paid much. At Participation House, it’s not that bad. But still, it’s not enough. Even people who have worked 30 years as PSWs have two jobs. I have a full-time and a part-time job to make ends meet. Most PSWs I know have two jobs — at least.” Albania tested positive for COVID-19 on April 9th and is currently in quarantine.Albania’s situation, and other PSWs like her, is a result of years of wage constraints and government underfunding. Additionally, there has been an inadequate supply of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). These two factors have precipitated the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes, assisted living facilities, and other group homes.SEIU Local 2 has been working to address these underlying issues, and has come to agreement with Participation House Markham management to double wages and provide PPE to staff.These changes and more should be implemented immediately to all care homes. SEIU Local 2 is calling on employers, the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and the rest of government to:Double the wage of all care home workers for the duration of the crisis;Mandate comprehensive and sufficient PPE overall care homes, including assisted living and community living facilities;Mandate comprehensive protocols to protect workers and their families, such as vouchers for hotel accommodation and taxi vouchers for the duration of the crisis for the duration of the crisis;Following the crisis, implement a meaningful permanent pay increase;Extend health and welfare benefits to all staff.Althea Senior has been working at Participation House at Farintosh House for over 18 years. Senior says: “These improvements need to happen right now so that we can stay safe and have enough staff working to take care of the residents.” Residents and staff at the group home are awaiting COVID-19 test results after the supervisor at Farintosh House tested positive.SEIU Local 2 members are on the ground every day, working on the frontlines. We have a direct insight into the quick progress of pandemic at these centers. If the government does not act swiftly and enact these changes, the situation will worsen to the point of no return.Contact: Assya Moustaqim-Barrette