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Letter to Minister of Children, Community & Social Services Todd Smith Re: PPE

Dear Minister,                                                                                                                                  

There is a pending crisis looming over community services facilities in Ontario that is on pace to match the deadly wave that has overcome our long-term care homes as a result of COVID-19. 

From the onset of this pandemic, too many of the solutions that will save lives have not been adequately implemented. Your announcement on April 21 outlining efforts to ensure proper PPE in Ontario’s group homes, and other care facilities under your ministry, is a welcome move in the right direction. Still, more must be done to protect front line and support workers in a variety of community services settings, along with the vulnerable people whose lives depend on their good health.

Take the use of the N95 facemask, for example. We trust that the PPE provisions in your announcement will include this proven life-saving device. The need is now. Don’t let what is already a forgotten sector of health care be even further neglected. We cannot afford to gamble with the lives of our workers and some of our most vulnerable citizens by not giving them the tools, procedures, and services they need to survive.

I commend the Premier for his efforts to protect Ontarians’ health since all this began. The latest forecast, as outlined in his April 20 model projections, contains clear paths to the end of this nightmare. We hope you hold the same conviction and vision. It’s your professional obligation to protect the people of Ontario – all Ontarians.

To help you gain further understanding of the needs of workers and clients in community services settings, it’s important that government leaders listen to the people providing care and establish a forum for reconciling issues in the workplace. This must be done with the participation of front-line workers.

What we can tell you from listening to our members is there is an immediate need to increase the number of essential and qualified front line community services staff. Burnout and stress are rampant due to overwork, thanks to an underfunded ministry. Chronic underfunding is also the reason that staff are working at more than one site. This could also be contributing to the spread of the disease.

We look forward to applauding further positive actions on your part that will remedy the deadly shortfalls plaguing your ministry. And I look forward to hearing all about it.

Sincerely, Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union