Long-Term Care Panel Fine, but Action Is Needed Now: Neill
The announcement of a Panel to review performance of long-term care homes during COVID-19 pandemic | CBC News (June 10, 2022) is welcome, but long overdue. It may pave the way for desperately needed improvements for elder care on Prince Edward Island, but should not be used to kick the can down the road on action that is needed now.
The skilled and compassionate health care professionals in these homes are working long shifts, with less than adequate wages and resources, plus little to no work-life balance. It’s no wonder they are burning out or seeking other employment where they are treated more fairly for their skills.
Island New Democrats and health advocates have been calling for the King Government to take action on senior care since at least the spring of 2020. At that time, the then Health Minister, James Aylward, committed to an internal long-term care review which is now finally available on the government website.
Given the senior care shortcomings over the last several years that have become even more evident since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the desperate pleas of health care representatives in recent legislative hearings, and the government’s own internal report, it would be negligent to continue to delay addressing the obvious deficiencies in care for the Island’s elderly.
The most urgent and glaring deficiencies are staffing shortages, and the related issue of the appalling minimum wage level salaries for many front line workers. The variance in wages received between staff in publicly owned facilities and privately operated nursing homes gives rise to questions as to how senior care should best be delivered on the Island.
Islanders are grateful for the extraordinary care our seniors have received from our health care providers during these past two challenging years of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this goodwill needs to be reflected by the King government in the form of adequate compensation and proper support.
Federal government initiatives in developing national long term care (LTC) standards and the promise of increased funding for senior care are welcomed with anticipation. However, the King government must take urgent action on the issues of elder care staffing and wage fairness for front line providers, while working with Ottawa to adopt improved standards, and establish priorities for new federal funding.
Michelle Neill, Leader
Island New Democrats
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