Doug Ford didn’t protect long-term-care facilities from COVID-19. Neither did the rest of us

Posted on April 16, 2020 in Child & Family Policy Context

Source: — Authors: – Politics/Political Opinion

For seniors awaiting their fates in nursing homes, the government’s promise of a protective “iron ring” became a death trap. They are on the front lines of the pandemic, cannon fodder exposed to COVID-19 while the rest of us shelter on the sidelines.

This week, Premier Doug Ford invoked new emergency powers to send in medical SWAT teams for infection control in nursing homes. And he banned part-time workers from working in multiple facilities where they unwittingly transmitted infections — but not until next week.

After all the warning and waiting, what’s taking so long? Why did B.C. act weeks before Ontario on nursing homes, and why didn’t this province heed warnings for stronger protection of all health workers months ago?

We could and should hold the current government to account — for falling behind the rest of Canada on testing, for lagging on nursing-home care, for fobbing off responsibility on to public health officials. But there is enough blame to go around — for politicians past and present, public servants and the public.

Examination need not mean recrimination. But it requires reflection — and action.

Just as we get the government(s) we deserve, so too we get the nursing homes and health facilities we deserve. We are all paying the price for failing to pay the true cost of health care — medicare, elder care, pharmacare, even the child care that essential workers needed to stay on the job.

This is a two-track pandemic — a general peril affecting the general population and a targeted threat afflicting the elderly given their vulnerability. So too our response must be double-barrelled.

We need to think fast and act decisively in a crisis, but also rethink past assumptions and future decisions. We are learning things we did not know, seeing people we never looked at.

Personal support workers (PSWs) toiled without personal protective equipment (PPE) tending the elderly in nursing homes and private homes. They lacked both recognition and remuneration, not to mention education and training on infection control.

Mindful of our aging demographics, governments have long tried to build out long-term care. But the budget pressures are daunting, which is why home care held out the promise of a compassionate and cost-effective alternative.

We wanted to spend smart, but in cutting corners we outsmarted ourselves at great cost. Rapid expansion led to more privatization and less government oversight.

Either way, it will only get harder to be better. At the very time demand is rising, standards must also be raised, creating double jeopardy for cost structures.

In order to measure up, we must pay up, not vote for politicians who promise to leave more money in our pockets. Ford is only the latest in a long line of politicians who pandered to the public’s desire to cut taxes, starting with the Mike Harris Tories in the mid-1990s.

Dalton McGuinty signed on to that mindset when he recast himself as a taxfighter in the 2003 election. When he later raised OHIP premiums, he was pummeled by the public, but you can’t invest in health care while cutting taxes.

It has become fashionable for politicians to praise their new heroes in this pandemic: Supermarket cashiers, bus drivers, truckers, couriers. But they didn’t sign up to be first responders on the front lines — they lack the training for infectious diseases, the protective equipment, and the pay packets that reflect a risk premium.

Despite the premier’s lofty rhetoric, he didn’t have their backs and neither did we. If there can be no excuses for elder care, why continue to exploit the workers who look after them?

We face urgent problems in coping with COVID-19, but we cannot put off forever the broader challenges of shoring up our social safety net. The economy, and the economics of health care, are interconnected — and there is no better time than now to reconnect the dots.

Our premier has put his best face forward in recent weeks, but he still has much to answer for. Why did he cancel a scheduled increase in the minimum wage from $14 to $15 last year, and then impose a 31-month freeze? Why did Ford roll back a ban on sick notes, and cancel a meagre two paid sick days for all workers? Why did he cancel pharmacare for old and young, or kill a pilot program for a basic income? Why did the premier try to cut funding for public healthservices last year? Because voters in this province empowered him — enabled him — to do it.

There are no easy answers, no panaceas for a pandemic so unprecedented in its global sweep. But lots of hard questions ahead.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, April 16th, 2020 at 3:34 pm and is filed under Child & Family Policy Context. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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