Long Term Care Homes

A few years ago my father-in-law was a resident in a local, well known long-term care home. This was when homes were better funded and unlike today (thank you Mike Harris), the home was non-profit. He was recovering from a series of minor strokes, had Parkinson’s disease, was incontinent and while he could walk around, had been reduced to a child-like state.

My elderly and disabled mother-in-law visited him daily and it was soon obvious that there was a disquieting and sinister undercurrent running through the place. Many of the residents were physically disabled – victims of strokes or accidents and they and their relatives lived in fear of retaliation by staff if they spoke out about conditions in the home. My MIL discovered that at mealtimes, residents would be served and the meal would often be untouched after 30 minutes when it would be removed. Like several others, she ended up hiring an attendant to feed her husband so that he wouldn’t die of starvation.

At the home, staff had somehow persuaded management that uniforms were authoritarian and intimidating, so they wandered around indistinguishable from visitors. Residents would be left in soiled diapers for hours and changed grudgingly as if it was a great favour. Many residents were tied to their chairs so they wouldn’t be a nuisance between mealtimes. I was drafted to write letters, put on a suit and do battle with management (several times) and things slowly improved for my FIL. Sadly, few others had relatives who could or would do this. In those days, the only alternative, home care, was even less adequate than it is today.

Fast forward to the pandemic of 2020 and behold the sight of Premier Ford blinking  with emotion and surprise that the Canadian Armed Forces had reported squalid conditions and seemingly criminal neglect in the care homes where they had been assigned.

Long Term Care Minister Dr. Merrilee Fullerton seems equally bemused but that’s better than admitting that the reason might be that the Ford government reduced funding and inspections (an average home can now expect a full inspection once every 100 years). Add to that years of neglect by governments of all parties and long term care residents were sitting targets. Upwards of 80% of Ontario Covid-19 deaths have been in care homes. The highest rates have been in homes that were for profit. This was largely due to a lack of direction from Minister Fullerton and the systemic exploitation of low-paid agency workers, forced  to work in several locations in order to make a living.

Health Minister (and former Long Term Health Care Minister) Christine Elliott claims to know nothing about long term care home conditions but she may have a short memory.

The Feds no doubt are secretly pleased that the Army embarrassed Ford but they’ve got skin in the game.

There’s no shortage of blame to go round. Read about the Armed Forces report here and the actual document here.

Ford will resist holding an inquiry or changing the legislation. He’ll hope that the heat will die down and the public will be satisfied with a few dramatic band-aid gestures.

That won’t cut it.

If we’re stuck with private companies running long term care homes for a profit, there should be strong legislation to safeguard residents including standards of care, staffing levels, supervisory community involvement and rigorous, frequent, meaningful inspections.

Let’s see if Premier Ford’s tears are real or theatrical.

Action needed on care homes.

Locally, residents at local retirement / long-term care homes at Humber Heights and West Park are enduring severe outbreaks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many other care homes are battling outbreaks throughout the province. Half of Ontario’s (291 as of April 14) COVID-19 death toll has been from care-home residents. As of last Friday, 99 of Ontario’s 629 care homes were reporting infections.

29 residents have died in a 65-bed nursing home in Bobcaygeon . The Ontario Health Ministry has secured help for the home from private company Extendicare; curiously the same people who run West Park’s Long Term Care Centre, currently undergoing its own COVID-19 outbreak. In fact the CBC has the story of a resident at West Park Long Term Care who says that the place is grossly understaffed and residents are being neglected. The resident, fearing retaliation from staff asked to remain anonymous.

Some care home staff have been staying home, fearful of being infected or infecting family members because of a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE). Astonishingly, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams waited until last week before requiring workers to wear masks in care homes. Personal care staff are often required to work in more than one location to make ends meet (full time work is often denied to them so that care homes and agencies can avoid paying benefits).

Premier Ford’s mother-in-law is a long-term care resident at West Park and the premier says it breaks his heart to see his wife Carla helplessly standing outside her mother’s window in tears. While Ford says that it’s ‘very very difficult’ for hundreds of thousands of families right now, there doesn’t seem to be a lot being done. “We’re doing everything we can.“, is often all that he can muster, a comment echoed by health minister Christine Elliott.

Sorry Premier, Minister Elliott, Dr. Williams, that’s not good enough.

While many of these homes are privately run facilities, they are largely taxpayer funded and subsidized. Many years of underfunding by Liberals and (now) Conservatives is a big part of the problem.

Since half of Ontario’s COVID-19 deaths are occurring in care homes, here are some urgent questions on the following:

  • How will you stop the further spread of COVID-19 in care homes?
  • What measures are you taking to ensure adequate PPE is getting to these facilities?
  • How are you ensuring that there are adequate staff levels?
  • Will you end staff being forced to work part-time at several care homes in order to make a living (currently it’s only a recommendation from MOH Dr. Williams)?
  • Will funding be increased to support long term care homes now and in the future?
  • Will you authorize an immediate, substantial pay rise for front-line health care workers?
  • Will you test every resident and worker in long term care homes?

Until these points are addressed Premier, you’re not doing everything you can.

Update 1: Premier Ford announced today that as of midnight on Tuesday April 14, care workers will be banned from working at more than one establishment. The province will top up any lost wages.

Update 2: It turns out that Mr Ford is only applying this measure for two weeks. Is there an emoji for ‘facepalm’?

Update 3: After reading the fine print, the unsettling news is that this brief measure doesn’t apply to agency workers. Read the depressing details here.

Thoughts from the lockdown.

As we endure this lockdown, it’s important to think about the people who are still working and keeping things running. Thoughts must especially go to people working in health care and to others on the front lines who have to deal with the public. Thank you for your service. We should also think about the people whose jobs and businesses have been savaged by the virus and who will not be ‘made whole’ by the government. Lastly, the people forced to live in close proximity such as those in long-term care homes. They are in a precarious position thanks to the false economy of staffing through agencies.

Some good things:

Doug Ford – Since his attack on Pusateri’s, he’s becoming seen as everybody’s premier.

Thank you to Councillor Frances Nunziata, MPP Faisal Hassan and MP Ahmed Hussen for keeping us informed via your newsletters.

Air and noise pollution is down because of reduced road and air traffic along with industrial manufacturing. Vehicle collisions and related deaths and injuries may be down.

The sounds of nature are more evident.

If you are no longer driving to work, your insurance company may give you a break.

Crime may be down.

Money will be flowing to most people who need it. 

Civil order has been maintained and people are respecting stay at home and physical distancing orders.

Some bad things:

People are very ill and dying. Families are suffering. Many provinces including Ontario were unprepared despite advanced warning.

There is a severe shortage of the equipment needed to protect health care professionals. This video shows nurses in China preparing to face COVID-19 patients and the astonishing amount of protection required to keep them safe. Ontario is still scrambling to obtain adequate stockpiles of this equipment. By contrast, Alberta began buying PPE in December when they correctly anticipated the pandemic’s arrival in Canada. Where was Ontario’s Ministry of Health at this time? It’s no secret that during a pandemic, huge amounts of PPE and ventilators are needed.


There are too many public health voices across Canada. We need a nation-wide COVID-19 response. This would coordinate the actions, policies and purchasing from all areas of the country.

We applied little from our 2003 SARS experience in Toronto. Pandemic planning was inadequate and interventions ineffective because they were too late. We didn’t have testing at airports to identify those bringing the virus into the country along with early enough mandatory quarantines for all. Police have only recently started charging physical distancing violators.

People in charge of containment don’t seem to be up to the job. It’s great having health departments but one gets a strong impression of unpreparedness and playing catch-up. Take for example the mask debacle. We were first told that masks were ineffective and now apparently they ‘may’ work to prevent an infected person from spreading the virus. Perhaps scarves can be re-purposed. We’re still not testing enough nor are we tracking the spread of the virus intelligently. The other day, Ford was demanding that the province test more people. Perhaps he should have a word with the premier or the health minister.

Nursing and long-term care homes are sitting targets and their under-funding has cost many lives. Many of these institutions obtain support staff from agencies who save money by deliberately not providing full-time employment. Many agency staff are paid low wages, zero benefits and may be required to work in several institutions. This and a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) have ensured that infections in care homes have spread rapidly. British Columbia stopped this practice weeks ago. Meanwhile, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott is still pondering whether to do the same.

People who are on the front lines need more help and material support.

Local businesses are hurting.  We should be supporting our local businesses so that they are around once this thing is over.

Some interesting things:

This is an Easter to remember and people will be writing about this pandemic for years.

COVID-19 and its effects will last for a long time; experts predict that there will be further waves of the virus.

From CityNews.

It’s interesting that Ford is being a lot more honest with the people. Let’s hope that he is capable of learning from this pandemic and understanding that good government funding is vital when preparing for times like these. He should end the self-publicizing photo-ops of him carting boxes of masks. We have people for that and besides; it’s disingenuous to make political capital out of a tragedy you could have done much more to prevent.

We should copy what they do in Taiwan where the infection has been controlled with superb coordination and a lot less financial disruption. Taiwan has demonstrated that it is vital to set up an intelligent approach to tracking contacts of people with the disease and ensuring compliance with quarantine orders. Sadly, Taiwan is unrecognized by the World Health Organization for political reasons.

I occasionally go for walks around our neighbourhood in Greater Weston™  and it boggles the mind to know that in spite of the quiet streets, most people are home.

Cruise lines may never recover. Norwalk and other infections were always an issue on cruise ships as one’s fellow passengers could not be relied on to wash their hands to protect others. Experience has shown that while this virus is loose, cruise ships can not provide a safe experience either for passengers or the people in the ports they visit. Cruise lines are unlikely to get a large bail-out either since they are registered elsewhere.

Surgical type face-masks may become a common sight in flu season long after COVID-19 has gone. People in Asia know that face-masks work to stem flu-like diseases. At the beginning of the outbreak we were told not to bother. Now, the same people are saying they may be effective to stop an infected person from spreading the disease. At this rate they’ll soon be mandatory.

Stay tuned.

Update: Global news is reporting a massive COVID-19 outbreak at Humber Heights Retirement Home on Lawrence Avenue and Scarlett Road. Seven residents are dead and twenty-three residents along with fourteen staff are infected.  Read more here.

Election post-mortem thoughts.

From: National Post.

Now the election is over, Doug Ford is about to be released back into the broad daylight of Ontario politics. Apparently if he sees his shadow it means another 6 months of cuts.

Ford’s enforced absence during the campaign proved that federal Conservatives are embarrassed by his brainless, dogma-driven actions along with slash and burn service cuts for lower and middle income earners. He and federal leader Andrew Scheer are no doubt blaming each other for the Liberals’ lucky escape. The political long knives are out for both of them. Patrick Brown will be chomping some popcorn from his Brampton mayor’s chair.

The Ford Name also failed to work the charm in nearby Etobicoke North where Rob Ford’s widow Renata was running as a first-time candidate. Despite her less than dynamic presence under the People’s Party banner, her Ford name was enough to give Maxime Bernier a seat at the English debate because she was considered a genuine contender. She finished in the also-ran category with 2.8% of the vote but has promised to return under the same banner.

The Conservatives in York South-Weston need to run local candidates who don’t disappear after each election.

It turned out that there was a Big Red Wave after all but only in Ontario. Ahmed Hussen has been given a fresh mandate to continue his aloof ways. The sight of Frances Nunziata campaigning alongside him was additional evidence that he’s far too good for York South-Weston and we definitely should be grateful to have him.

The NDP need to intensify their focus on working families struggling to make ends meet rather than by tangling themselves up in layers of dogma and political correctness. A lot more people care about minimum wage than how many genders there are. They also need to tackle the motivations of 43% of the York South-Weston electorate who declined the opportunity to vote.

All election signs must be removed by 9:30pm Thursday.

Ban on New Payday Loan Outlets?

From somos.presente.org

Councillor Frances Nunziata is attempting (with council colleagues) to freeze the number of payday loan companies in Toronto through a Council by-law that would stop licensing new ones.

Payday loan outlets have expanded exponentially and have tended to cluster in lower income areas. Weston has more than its fair share of them.

Payday loan / check cashing companies began in the U.S. in the 1990s thanks to repeal of usury laws there. It was the Harper Conservatives who opened the door to payday loan companies across Canada. The maximum interest rate under the Criminal Code was (and still is) 60% annually before the Tories opened a Pandora’s Box loophole in 2007. Provinces were allowed to regulate their own rates after that. The Wynne Liberals tightened the rules slightly (nothing the industry couldn’t drive a truck through) and lowered the rates to the current astronomical level.

Why do payday loan companies exist? Especially when they charge loan-shark levels of interest. Without customers, PLCs would have gone out of business long ago. The chart below illustrates some of the reasons offered by customers.

Reasons for using a PLC. Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

There are three reasons for PLCs’ continued existence:

One reason is the failure of Canada’s banking quintopoly™ to make their more affordable services known and widely available to low-income Canadians. Also by closing branches, they have been allowed to shirk their moral obligation to provide banking and financial education to the poor. Many people don’t realize how much a payday loan costs – $15 interest per $100 borrowed over two weeks is an annual interest rate of 391%.

Relative costs of borrowing $300 for 14 days. . Financial Consumer Agency of Canada.

The second reason PLCs exist is a systemic poverty that prevents people from getting ahead. Ontario’s minimum wage is $14.00 an hour or about $29,000 annually. This is about $2000 lower than it should have been thanks to Premier Ford cancelling the planned January 1 minimum wage increase to $15.00. Ford (and others including the Ontario Chamber of Commerce) claimed that a higher minimum wage would kill jobs, lower profits and trigger inflation. When the min-wage was increased from $11.60 to $14.00, none of the dire predictions came true. Ford was dead wrong. Yes, For The People indeed.

Lastly, our living costs are astronomical. An income of over $100,000 is needed to afford the payments on a one-bedroom condo apartment in Toronto. Rental units are rising too. Toronto’s public housing has a 7 to 10-year waiting list and is in a state of chronic disrepair and neglect. Gangs, cockroaches and bedbugs are allowed to operate relatively unfettered inside their confines.

Thanks once again go to dear leader, Premier Ford who dismantled Ontario’s successful Cap and Trade program that was set to provide billions towards public housing, school repairs and upgrades. All together now: For the People.

Although banking is a federal matter, York South-Weston MP Ahmed Hussen has been silent on the banking industry despite being prodded to make some remarks on the topic. He represents one of the poorest ridings in the country (not that he actually lives here) yet fails to be moved by the plight of people victimized by the failure of our current banking system.

There are alternatives to PLCs. Anyone in Canada can open a low cost bank account that can charge a maximum of, $4.00 in monthly fees. Account holders are allowed up to 12 debit transactions a month and other features. Account holders can gain access to financial advice.

Even better, Luminus Credit Union has a branch at 2011 Lawrence Ave W unit 11 ( 416-243-0686). They have a zero-fee, zero minimum-balance checking account.

Of course we can (and should) stop new PLCs in Toronto but that’s not going to fix the predation caused by existing ones, idiotic legislation, low wages and costly housing.

This is a lucrative  industry with well-placed and well-financed lobbyists. Let’s see if Councillor Nunziata and Toronto City Council can begin the process of eliminating the scourge of payday lenders from Weston and the rest of the city. If they can do that, then they can move on to bigger actions.

From Richmond Times Dispatch.

Learn more about payday loan companies here.

Heads roll after Doug Ford’s audio opinion polls.

Apparently Doug Ford doesn’t like being booed. His reception at several public events has shown that he’s strongly disliked – even by once loyal supporters. His approval rating is now lower than Kathleen Wynne’s – at her absolute lowest point – quite an achievement in such a short time.

Instead of reflecting on this, the Premier is blaming the people to whom he gave impossible tasks.

Today’s cabinet shuffle demotes some of his most ardent (and obedient) followers who made the mistake of taking Mr. Ford at his word. Having issued no platform before last year’s election, the Premier issued directives only in superlatives and what’s a rookie cabinet minister to do except adopt the tone that has no doubt pervaded caucus and cabinet meetings i.e. cut taxes, eliminate waste, decimate bleeding heart projects and keep people happy with more accessible booze.

A steamroller approach was encouraged based seemingly on, ’What would Don Cherry do?’. Less than a year later, Ford Nation is in tatters and the Premier gets an audio opinion poll anytime he appears in public. His federal counterpart, Andrew Scheer wants no help from toxic Doug in the upcoming election and Ford has agreed to lie low, obligingly shuttering Queens Park until the end of October – after the federal election. That must hurt.

Over the past few months, Ford’s cabinet has dutifully picked fights with autistic children and their parents, public servants, safe injection sites, minimum wage earners, municipalities, the Beer Store and many others. In the meantime, Ford ended the Carbon Tax and halted tax increases thinking that this would endear him to the people. What this did was lower revenues and make things harder for Fedeli whose budget spending went higher than Kathleen Wynne’s the previous year.

The Premier promised that not one job would be lost as a result of his ‘efficiencies’. Now he says he meant, ‘Not one front line job’ (whatever those are). He apparently didn’t mean cabinet jobs.

Big names demoted today were Lisa Thompson (Education), Lisa Macleod (Community and Social Services) and Vic Fedeli (Finance), Even Caroline Mulroney wasn’t spared, being moved from the prestigious silks of the Attorney General position to the greasy overalls of Transportation. No doubt Mulroney Senior along with other Conservatives is furious.

Nobody claimed that everything was good in the Kathleen Wynne government. Lord knows we needed a change. Few would have predicted that Ford would fall on his face this early.

There are three years left in the P.C. government’s mandate; they won’t be dull and if perceptions don’t improve, the Ontario Conservative movement will be set back for decades. The question is, can the P.C. Party dump Ford and install a new leader before 2022?

That’s probably their only hope.