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OPSEU President urges Ford government to enact all of Wettlaufer inquiry’s recommendations

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas

Toronto – OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the Ford government must swiftly implement the 91 recommendations made by the inquiry into the murder of eight long-term care (LTC) home residents by Elizabeth Wettlaufer between 2007 and 2016.

“These murders are among the most tragic and shameful chapters in the province’s history,” said Thomas. “On behalf of all of OPSEU’s members – including thousands of frontline workers in long-term care homes and at the Ministry of Long-Term Care, I want to offer our condolences to the families who have suffered these horrible crimes.

“We must not let this happen again. The Ford government must make sufficient investment in our long-term care system so that it is safe for all.”

The inquiry, which was led by Justice Eileen Gillese, found that “systemic issues” allowed the serial murders to occur unnoticed. The inquiry is calling on the government to establish stronger ministry oversight of LTC homes, increase the number of staff working in LTC homes, and bolster the training that staff receive.

“From the start, OPSEU has been calling on the inquiry to look at the lack of proper funding that contributed to allowing these murders to happen,” said Thomas. “I’m glad to see the inquiry acknowledge these systemic problems.”

OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida said that while the problems facing long-term care are complex, the ultimate solution is simple: more investment.

“Ontario invests less per person in its public services and health care than any other province,” said Almeida. “And the fact that a serial killer could stalk our long-term care homes for so long, unnoticed, is one of the many consequences of a lack of funding for those facilities.

“We can afford to invest more. We must invest more.”

Thomas also said that standards in the sector must be strengthened. He says there is a need for more support and power for Ministry of Long-Term Care inspectors, minimum staff-to-resident ratios, and a minimum of four hours of daily care from long-term care workers.

“Right now, there are fewer than 170 long-term care inspectors. And when one of them finds a problem, their reports have to go through two levels of approval before they’re issued,” said Thomas.

“With so many private long-term care homes out there right now, too few inspectors with too little power opens the door to political meddling.

“Inspectors are the first line of defence for those in long term care,” said Thomas. “This isn’t a matter of politics, it’s a matter of right and wrong. It’s time for the government to do the right thing.”

For more information:

OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931