Chet Greason, Gazette staff
A group of concerned citizens held its second meeting in Mitchell last Wednesday regarding the health care system in Ontario, specifically its long-term care facilities.
The group of about 35 people discussed a range of topics, from the difficulties of evoking change to the lack of personal social workers (PSWs) in area nursing homes, to ongoing petitions that could potentially help.
The meeting was chaired by Bob Martin. Sue Staldegger, representing, in her words, “front line workers,” also made a brief presentation.
Kathy Vassilakos, a member of the Perth-Wellington chapter of the provincial NDP, presented recommendations regarding provincial health care, while president of the chapter, Jack Verholst, was in attendance as a member of the audience.
“We’ve known that a health care crisis and demographic shift have been coming for a long time ... since the ’60s,” said Vassilakos, in reference to the aging population and the high number of baby boomers who will require more health-related services as time goes on.
“Why have we not prepared for it?,” she added, noting its seems governments have fallen into the habit of stumbling from one crisis to another, based around four year election cycles.
“The system is set up to stumble,” she said.
Staldegger, whose background is in personal support work, said the climate is dire in Ontario’s long-term care facilities.
“Documentation is more important than the residents,” she said. “The PSWs are working their butts off.”
“There aren’t enough of them, and they’re not going to be hiring anymore, either,” added Martin.
Meanwhile, Verholst gave his view on the root cause of the symptoms that have everyone concerned.
“Private companies have invested millions of dollars into the Ontario health care system because they know it will be profitable,” said Verholst. “Now they’re using public money to hire part-time workers with no benefits, no decent wages ... they’re making huge profits off of miserable people.”
Verholst cited the health care situation in the US as an example of privatization run amok.
“It’s terrible,” he said. “No one is controlling rates.”
Other topics discussed at the meeting included cuts to pastoral services in nursing homes, the ratio of PSWs to patients, and the lack of needed home care services.
In terms of planning the next step, Vassilakos suggested signing a petition that demands hospitals and long-term care facilities open their doors to the provincial ombudsman.
The NDP has twice introduced a bill that would make this a reality, but both died on the floor of the legislature.
“Petitions are becoming very popular,” said Vassilakos. “There’s something about delivering 4,000 names to an MPP’s office.”
The petition, which was made available at the meeting, pointed out that Ontario is the only province, including the three territories, where the ombudsman does not have independent oversight of hospitals and other frontline care organizations.