Letter: Just what are Manitoulin long-term care homes doing to ensure residents’ safety?

‘A call to The Expositor to find out this and more’

To the Expositor:

The extraordinary times we are now living in today compels me to attempt to have this letter approved by the editor, printed in the next available spot in The Expositor and shared with the public.

In the recent words of Doctor Bedard, one of our local ‘tips of the spear’ in the fight against COVID-19 to protect our citizens, “Please bear with me folks as I have to give you the background so you can understand the rest of it.”

As a lot of you may or may not know, I am retired from a long career in long-term care (LTC) nursing and have remained a staunch advocate for LTC residents and workers and this is not the first letter that I write in regards to LTC in Ontario. Most of you will also know that I have never hidden my political feelings or party affiliation. Just shortly before the last federal election I submitted a letter to the editor of The Expositor. The letter contained a lot of the same subject matter that I always touch on in both the political arena and from a long-time LTC worker’s experience and perspective. After noticing that my letter was not being printed I emailed the editor of The Expositor to inquire as to why. The editor emailed me back telling me that my letter was “full of liable “ and that the paper had been contacted by a lawyer about my libelous letters. I will not delve any further into that aspect of the letter other than to highlight a particular issue which I had spoke about in a previous letter which The Expositor had printed. Again, I ask that you bear with me while I give you the background to that issue which will help you fully understand the rest of my letter.

My issue was with the newly appointed Conservative Minister of LTC in Ontario, Merrilee Fullerton. I cannot tell you directly what my issue was with the minister as this is something the editor refused my letter on, so what I will do is give you some facts from accredited media outlets and then some information on what she has just done in the LTC sector, citing COVID-19 as the reason:

The following are statements made by Merrilee Fullerton as reported by the Toronto Star: Islamic radicalism is usually not in the first generation of immigrants or refugees; that is most dangerous in their second generation; she tweeted advising people to watch a march by thousands of anti-Islam PEGIDA members in Dresden, Germany; she called the home of 20,000 Muslim immigrants “The Ghetto” (it was the Rosengard housing area in Sweden); she railed against a “wear-a-hijab” day in Ottawa; and her blog on Squarespace entitled ‘Doctors as Terrorists’ where she insinuated Canada should not allow any Muslim doctors in Canada.

Just the other day Minister Fullerton LTC announced sweeping changes to LTC in Ontario, citing COVID-19 as the reason. The changes eliminate long-held rules that protect our most vulnerable.

The order removes training requirements for workers and eliminates the need for administrators to report complaints to the ministry.

With high levels of COVID-19 in Ontario’s LTC facilities, allowing untrained people to work on nursing in these homes will be a disaster, stated Jane Meadus, a lawyer for The Advocacy Centre for the elderly. 

Infection control will be scary let alone all the complex issues LTC patients have which require properly trained nursing staff to look after.

The emergency order lists more than a dozen changed or deleted regulations! I will let the readers of The Expositor set their own thoughts on why I have an issue with Minister Fullerton being the minister of a sector that is responsible for the province’s most vulnerable citizens.

I need to say that over the past, The Expositor has done an excellent job of reporting on Island issues such as the changing out of the Swing Bridge, a Tim Hortons in Little Current and the attempt to save the Old School in Mindemoya, all of which I am sure are very dear to some Islanders’ hearts. I certainly hope that The Expositor will embrace Ontario’s LTC sector in the time of COVID-19 with the same zeal as the other issues of concern to all Islanders and with their usual high quality of investigative journalism. I’m sure they could produce a very informative article for all.

To be quite blunt, while I am writing this letter LTC residents are dying of COVID-19 and LTC workers are testing positive for COVID-19! This is not fear mongering or being over-dramatic on my part. Sadly, these are hard verified facts!

At Pinecrest Nursing Home in Bobcaygeon, 24 residents have died of COVID-19 (as of press time Monday) and even more staff have tested positive for COVID-19. CTV News aired segment that showed a parade of townsfolk in their cars driving by the home to show their appreciation to the staff. Some staff came outside to watch and wave and the camera zoomed in on them and if you are a healthcare worker you would have noticed that in a nursing home ravaged by COVID-19 not one of those workers were wearing a N95 mask, just plain old surgical masks! Eight residents dead in an LTC facility in Scarborough of the virus, four dead in an LTC facility in Hagersville of this scourge and it goes on and on!

Anyone who knows anything at all about the recent history of LTC in Ontario knows it is an extremely underfunded, under-equipped and understaffed sector.

Minister Fullerton is complicit in causing the LTC crisis which has now become a provincial and national disaster! Minister Fullerton will have to answer some hard questions: Why were an adequate supply of N95 masks not readily available for all LTC staff; and why was their such a shortage of all personal protective equipment (PPE) for LTC workers which forced them to go into harm’s way with sub-standard PPE?

CTV News interviewed a staff doctor from the Pinecrest Nursing Home and he stated that “The PSWs were basically beat right from the start” due to years of underfunding and staff shortages and from years of being grossly under-paid!

Of course at the end of the day I guess it is completely up to The Expositor if they want to run a story on our local LTC facilities and their heroic staff who walk into harm’s way every day because that is who they are and that is what they do.

Thank you,

Greg Young

Wiikwemkoong

EDITOR’S NOTE: Please see ‘All Island nursing homes enact strict lockdowns during COVID-19 spread’ on Page 3.