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OPSEU/SEFPO President offers Premier front-line help on long-term care crisis

OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren 'Smokey' Thomas

Toronto – Just hours after calling for an OPP investigation into the large and rising numbers of COVID-19 deaths occurring in private long-term care homes, OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas is now offering the Premier his union’s help in preventing even more deaths.

“It’s important to find and hold accountable those responsible for all these deaths, but it’s even more urgent to make sure no more deaths happen,” said Thomas. “So, I’m calling on the Premier to establish an expert panel of front-line workers so he can finally start learning the truth about what’s really going wrong in our long-term care homes.

“Tens of thousands of our members work in health care and long-term care, and as inspectors and health and safety experts. The Premier can count on their insight, experience, expertise and, most importantly, their honesty to finally stop all of these tragically preventable deaths.”

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida said that a panel of front-line experts could start by answering the question nobody else seems willing to answer.

“Why are private long-term care homes being hit so incredibly hard?” asked Almeida. “Non-profit and publicly managed homes aren’t experiencing the same high death rates, and neither are other similar congregate settings.

“What is it about private ownership and management that has made those long-term care homes so deadly?”

Thomas said that to truly answer those questions, it’s time to stop asking managers and owners.

“So far, all we’ve been listening to are the ‘experts.’ Frankly, they haven’t been right about much so far, and this is causing a whipsaw reaction to public health measures,” he said. “Perhaps the answer rests with the front-line heroes rather than the parade of television experts. We need less celebrity, and more grassroots.

“I can empathize with the Premier – he’s obviously getting bad advice. It’s time for him to get some honest advice, and OPSEU/SEFPO is here to help because we’re all in this together. If the Premier does not take us up on our offer, we’ll look into setting up a workers’ panel ourselves and report those findings as quickly as possible.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931