September 2nd, 2021—Citing problems in long-term care exacerbated by COVID-19, a broad coalition of unions and other community stakeholders is urging party leaders to put an urgently-needed overhaul of long-term care at the top of their priorities.
Organizations involved in this coalition include the Canadian Health Coalition, Friends of Medicare, UNI Global Union as well as several unions, including SEIU, UFCW, Unifor, USW, CUPE Ontario, CFNU, BCGEU, and ONA. Many unions are affiliates of UNI Global Union, a federation of unions and advocate for increase care quality around the world. They are kicking off this drive with an open letter to all federal party leaders calling for new legislation setting federal long-term care (LTC) standards linked to government funding.
“Each wave of the virus has hit us incredibly hard and taken so much—our colleagues, our residents, our loved ones,” said Tara Kraehling, PSW, Southbridge Roseview Manor. “To rebuild our resiliency as long-term care workers and to repair a care system on the brink, we need change now. This letter is a distress signal to federal leaders telling them Canada deserves real solutions.”
Canada had extremely high rates of COVID-related deaths in long-term care, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The country’s infection totals in LTC have been up to ten times higher than in other commonwealth nations, and the problem has been particularly acute in for-profit long-term care homes. For profit long-term care centers have seen deaths rates as high as 8.6 deaths per 100 beds, more than twice the overall industry average of 3.7.
Even before the pandemic, the long-term care sector was under strain. Unless the system is fixed, the coalition of care advocates write, the growing needs of the Canadian people coupled with a potential expansion of the for-profit LTC sector would decrease the oversight and accountability while also driving working and care standards down. “Creating sustainable change is an immense challenge, but we believe that there is no alternative but to act now. Maintaining the status quo would be negligent and harmful to Canadians,” the letter says. The group is pushing for policies including:
- Increased federal funding conditional on meeting national long-term care standards;
- Phasing out the for-profit long-term care system in Canada;
- Improved working conditions, including enhanced training, livable wages and paid sick leave;
- Improved living conditions, such as end the use of multi-bed rooms;
- Adequate staffing levels;
- Improved health and safety measures;
- Measures to address staff shortages, retention, and attracting new workers to the industry.
“Too many people in Canada have died, and thousands of families have been left in fear as their family members continue to be live in deplorable conditions,” said Pauline Worsfold, RN, Chairperson of the Canadian Health Coalition. “The federal government needs to take action.”
“The human toll of the pandemic may never be fully known, but it is clear that we must take immediate steps to mitigate COVID’s impact. We have to make sure that we don’t make the same mistakes in a future pandemic. Life must be at the centre of care, and these standards would put health and wellbeing at long-term care’s core.” Said Christy Hoffman, UNI Global Union’s General Secretary.
The letter and full list of signatories is below.
Adrian Durtschi, Head of UNI Care, UNI Global Union
Dave Baraniuk, President & Misty Lafond, 2nd Vice President/Business Agent, United Steelworkers Local 1-207
Jerry Dias, Unifor National President
Ken Neumann, National Director for Canada, United Steelworkers
Paul Meinema, National President, UFCW Canada
Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare
Shawn Haggerty, President, UFCW Locals 175 &633
Chris Parsons, Nova Scotia Health Coalition
Christina Warner, Interim Co-Executive Director, The Council of Canadians
Edith MacHattie and Barb Nederpel, Steering Committee Co-chairs, BC Health Coalition
Fred Hahn, President CUPE Ontario
Linda Silas, President, Canadian Federation of Nurses
Mary Boyd, PEI Health Coalition
Dr. Melanie Bechard, Chair, Canadian Doctors for Medicare
Paul Finch, Treasurer, B.C. General Employees’ Union
Pauline Worsfold, RN, Chairperson, Canadian Health Coalition
Sandra Azocar, Executive Director, Friends of Medicare
Vicki McKenna, President, Ontario Nurses’, Association
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
To arrange a phone, FaceTime, Zoom, Skype interview or for more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at [email protected] or 647-448-2823 (cell).
UFCW Locals 175 & 633 represents more than 70,000 working people across all sectors of the Ontario economy including health care, retail grocery and pharmacy, meat processing, food production, manufacturing and more.
Tim Deelstra, Engagement & Media Relations Strategist, UFCW Locals 175 & 633, 226-750-4366 or [email protected]
SEIU Healthcare represents more than 60,000 healthcare and community service workers across Ontario, Canada. The union's members work in hospitals, homecare, nursing and retirement homes, and community services throughout the province.
Corey Johnson, SEIU Healthcare, [email protected]
The United Steelworkers union (USW) is the largest private sector union in North America with more than 225,000 members in Canada and more than 850,000 members continent-wide. The USW is Canada's most diverse union, representing workers employed in every sector of the economy.
Shannon Devine, USW, [email protected]
The Canadian Health Coalition (CHC) is a public advocacy organization dedicated to the preservation and improvement of public health care in Canada.
Steven Staples, National Director of Policy and Advocacy , Canadian Health Coalition [email protected] or 343-777-6283 (cell).
Based in Nyon, Switzerland, UNI Global Union represents 20 million skills and services workers in 150 countries— including 2 million in care.
Eugenio Hernandez Villasante, UNI Global UNI, [email protected]
Based in Ottawa, the Canadian Federation of Nurses Unions (CFNU) is the national voice of close to 200,000 unionized nurses and nursing students across Canada.
Yasmin Gardaad, CFNU Government Relations, [email protected].
Founded in 1996, the Nova Scotia Health Coalition is a non-partisan organization of Nova Scotians fighting to protect, strengthen and expand public health care.
Chris Parsons, Provincial Coordinator, Nova Scotia Health Coalition, 902 880 8628
The BC Health Coalition is a non-partisan network of individuals and organizations with a shared passion for defending and strengthening public health care. We believe care should be there for everyone when we need it, regardless of our age, gender, income level, or the town we live in.
Usman Mushtaq, Coordinator, BC Health Coalition, [email protected]