As the world marks the Day of Older Persons on October 1 in the shadow of a deadly pandemic, we salute Ontario’s seniors for being so conscientious in observing public health guidelines to stop the spread of COVID-19. We also thank all those dedicated OPSEU members who work so hard and so courageously to care for them.
Older persons, particularly those living in long-term-care homes, have been disproportionately hit by the coronavirus. Some 82 per cent of COVID-19 deaths were in long-term-care homes. Meanwhile, of all the health care workers who have contracted COVID-19, some 40 per cent are personal support and long-term-care home workers.
The number of cases is twice as high in for-profit homes, with deaths 178 per cent higher. The Canadian Armed Forces, called into private care homes hard-hit by COVID-19, reported shocking conditions: blatant disregard for infection controls, mistreatment of residents and horrible care. Ontario has launched an independent commission on long-term care, and OPSEU will strenuously insist that the system be returned to the public sector. Because when profits play a role in public health care, the result is corners cut and inferior care.
We also renew our urgent call to address understaffing and the lack of full-time, permanent positions; insufficient pay; and attracting and retaining workers, which these hardworking members continue to endure. They relieve our overloaded health care system by keeping patients in their own homes, saving taxpayers untold millions of dollars. They deserve working conditions that recognize their vital and irreplaceable role, including a living wage that attracts new recruits.
To all Ontario seniors, and to all who cherish and care for them, we wish you a very happy International Day of Older Persons.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of OPSEU
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU First Vice-President/Treasurer