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'Society's collective shame:' labour leader reacts to Ontario long-term care report

The president of the Ontario Public Service Employees Union thinks the premier will pay a high political price if he ignores the report's findings.
Nursing home hallway. Photo/iStock

The head of one of Ontario's largest unions says the premier's political future may depend on what his government does with the findings of a report on long-term care homes during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The independent commission behind the report said Ontario's long-term care homes were unprepared for a pandemic, that the province failed to learn lessons from the SARS epidemic in 2003, and that sweeping reforms are needed to protect vulnerable residents in the future.

"It's damning, and the blame, I think, is society's collective shame," said Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) President Warren "Smokey" Thomas. "It goes back, all the way to four or five governments back; it's not a problem that was created by any one government in particular, it's just years of neglect."

The report said poor facility design and resident overcrowding heightened sickness and death in Ontario's nursing homes, with nearly 4,000 residents and 11 staff dying of COVID-19 by the end of April.

The commission added, a severe staffing shortage and a workforce poorly trained infection control measures compounded the situation.

"My union, we won't let it go and I don't think any union will let it go," Thomas told CityNews Ottawa's The Rob Snow Show. "I think if the premier wants any chance at a re-election next year, he's got to show that he's got that heart he showed early on, and that he's fixing long-term care."

"The premier's in a position to fix it and if he doesn't, I think he'll pay a dear price at the ballot box."

The 322-page report from Ontario's Long-Term Care Commission was submitted to the government, Friday night.

- With files from The Canadian Press


Jason White

About the Author: Jason White

Jason is an award-winning reporter on 1310 NEWS.
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