Espanola hosts Ontario Health Coalition ‘Rock-in’ tour

Ontario Health Coaltion volunteers with the ‘Rock-in for Improved Long-term Care’ Don Arkell and Peter Boyle stand with the giant rocking chair that is making its way across Ontario stopping in Espanola earlier this month.

ESPANOLA—Late last month, Espanola joined the list of 27 communities to play host to ‘Rock-in for Improved Long-Term Care’—an initiative by the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) to raise awareness about the level of care and access to care in Ontario’s long-term care homes, complete with an oversized rocking chair.

“We started the tour last week in southern Ontario and are here in Espanola this morning and will be traveling to Elliot Lake later today and Sudbury on Monday (June 2),” explained OHC volunteer Don Arkell. “The idea was discussed a few years ago, but it didn’t come into fruition until this year.”

“There are over 20,000 individuals waiting to get into long-term care homes,” added fellow OHC volunteer Peter Boyle. “This campaign is all about raising awareness about these long waits and other key issues such as decreased staffing and patient rights.”

“We hope people will see the chair and stop to learn more,” continued Mr. Boyle. “We are hoping to collect 20,000 signatures on postcards to symbolize the 30,000 people waiting for long-term care placements.”

“Level of care needs has risen dramatically in Ontario’s long-term care homes as more than 18,500 hospital beds have been closed since 1990 and patients are moved out of hospitals ever quicker and sicker,” states a release from the OHC about the ‘Rock-in’ tour. “But care levels have not matched the increasing needs of the resident. The result is unsafe environments for residents, staff and caregivers (since 2002 Ontario’s chief coroner has reported 29 homicides in long-term care homes, the release notes).”

“Ontario has the highest level of care needs among comparable jurisdictions because many more hospital beds have been cut here,” continues the release. “Ontario has cut more hospital beds than any other province in Canada and ranks last in the country in numbers of hospital beds per person.”

To address these issues the OHC identified two key demands of the next Ontario provincial government: to set a minimum care staffing standard of four-hours of hands-on care per day per resident and to improve access to care and reduce wait times, explained Mr. Boyle.

“Whereever we have been (on the tour) so far we are hearing the same stories,” said Mr. Boyle. “People are on waiting lists or are in long-term care facilities and just not getting the care they need. I knew things were bad, but I had no idea the extent until I started talking to people along the tour. I’m in my 60s and I sure want the system fixed before I need long-term care.”

During the Espanola ‘Rock-in’ MP Carol Hughes stopped by to show her support for the cause.

Ms. Hughes shared with The Expositor and the OHC volunteers that her sister is in long-term care and is very familiar with the challenges Ontarians are facing.

“This is something that is near and dear to me as my sister has been in a long-term care facility for over 10 years,” explained Ms. Hughes. “The government needs a plan to take care of our aging population and to work to support individuals and their families to keep them in their homes as long as possible.”

For more information and a complete list of all communities hosting the ‘Rock-in’ tour visit www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca.