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by Sid Ryan


If you are a baby boomer in Ontario today, you had better take a long hard look at this province’s stock of long-term care facilities, especially how they are operated and maintained. Chances are you will eventually end up in one of these homes and, believe me, it may not be a pleasant experience. 


A lot will depend on whether the McGuinty Liberals live up to promises made during the last election — promises to introduce minimum standards of care for residents in the province’s nursing homes. As things stand right now, the Liberals are not responding positively to numerous reports, including one from Ontario’s auditor general who called two years running for minimum standards to be introduced.


The Liberals have introduced Bill 140, a piece of legislation that rolls a number of acts together into one new set of regulations for the long-term care sector.


Right now, Ontario is one of the few provinces in Canada where residents in long-term care facilities are not guaranteed a minimum amount of daily nursing care. In the mid-1990s, the slash-and-burn Harris Tories eliminated the provincial requirement to provide every resident with a minimum of 2.25 hours of daily personal care.


And, while Harris was busy eliminating Ontario’s standards, 13 U.S. states were increasing theirs. Today, 37 jurisdictions in North America provide for a minimum standard of care.


I think it should be mandatory for all politicians at Queen’s Park to spend at least one full 24-hour period in a long-term care facility. Maybe then, they might begin to understand the absolute necessity to legislate minimum standards of care for the elderly and the frail.


Let the members of cabinet smell the stench of urine greeting them as they enter some of this province’s nursing homes. Let them sit in soiled disposable diapers for hours on end before they are changed because of a lack of staff or because the staff are only allowed to use one diaper per shift.


They should be forced to suffer the indignity of a “bath in a bag” where staff are told to comply with the government regulation requiring two baths a week by using two small wet towels. One towel is used for hands and face, the other for underarms and bottoms. The Liberals announced with great fanfare last year that every resident in a nursing home would receive two baths a week.  They never told us the residents would be forced to surrender their pride and dignity in order to receive this magnanimous  “improvement.”


Perhaps if government members and bureaucrats were forced to live in a long-term care home for 24 hours, they might listen more carefully to the pleas of frontline staff for proper whistle blower protection. Maybe they would never have allowed the administrators of St. Joseph’s at Fleming in Peterborough to suspend personal support worker Cathy Webdale last April for publicly speaking out about the conditions in that home.


And maybe they would be more inclined to protect frontline staff from violence in their workplaces. In the past five years, 3,000 incidents of violence were reported where residents assaulted staff or other residents.


The Liberals have an opportunity to make an enormous difference in the quality of life for almost 80,000 residents in Ontario’s long-term care homes. This legislation will not be re-opened for another 20 years or more, so it’s imperative they get it right in the first place.


Sadly, they have already dropped the ball by holding public hearings in only four cities across the province and turning away more than 50 organizations and individuals who wanted to make their views known.


The Liberals are kowtowing more to the interests of the nursing home lobbyists who are increasingly representing private, for-profit homes. They should be listening to the most important people in the system — the residents, their families and the people who provide direct support on the front line.


So, listen up, boomers. We keep hearing about the power we have. Exercise it now to make sure your later years are spent in dignity and comfort.