Ontario Health Coalition's giant 10-foot rocking chair arrived in Tillsonburg Tuesday afternoon.
"The chair is a symbol of care," said Ontario Health Coalition volunteer Peter Boyle, from Jones Falls (north of Kingston), in front of Maple Manor Nursing Home, "and the Giant Rocking Chair Tour is about pressuring the provincial government to increase the standards of care for residents in long-term care homes. And the second point is patient rights.
"We've had a number of MPPs around the province say, 'standards of care, yes, we're with you' and when they get to Queen's Park they're silent."
The Coalition feels minimum care standards, similar to day care regulations that set limits on the number of children per staff, would ensure a safe level of staffing and care to meet residents' needs and protect them from harm in long-term care homes.
"There used to be regulations, and they were removed in the mid-90s by the government at the time," said Boyle. "There are regulations when it comes to day care centres, there are regulations when it comes to schools, but they were removed from long-term care homes almost 20 years ago. And there are none now."
Over the last three years the Rocking Chair Tour has visited 68 communities.
"We go out every June for a couple of weeks, and we hear the same story over and over and over."
One of their targets is a four-hour minimum care standard of hands-on care, per resident, per day.
"That's an average," said Boyle. "Some need more, some may need a little less."
The issue with patients' rights, he said, is the ability to get into long-term care facilities.
"The law currently states that you can go into long-term care of your choosing."
Most people want to be in a facility close to family, he said, who can assist with their long-term care.
"The problem is there is a long waiting list for people in long-term care homes to get to the ones closest to their family members."
In Ontario there are 80,000 long-term care patients, said Boyle, and in the past 10 years the waiting list has grown to 20,000 with an average five-month wait.
"When you look at the numbers today, it's the tip of the iceberg," said Boyle. "We've had 20 years of no regulations, we've had 20 years of no action, and we have a bigger problem coming with the Baby Boomers. In the next 10-20 years it's going to be magnified."
"99.5 per cent of the people polled in Oxford County said that our hospitals need better funding," said Bryan Smith of the Oxford Coalition for Social Justice. "And I'm pretty convinced that they would agree that long-term health care also requires better funding.
"For the past two and a half years the Coalition has been doing support pickets at hospitals, where we come out in sympathy with patients, volunteers, staff, boards, and families, and to say 'we have to stop the cuts, we need proper funding.' The talk about targeted funding and transformation is all disguise language for cutting the essential services that patients need. And we hear that over and over again."
According to the Ontario Health Coalition, complex continuing care hospital beds have been cut in half in Ontario since 1990, leaving Ontario's long-term care facilities to replace chronic care hospitals.
That puts more pressure on the private-sector facilities.
If long-term care facilities are under-staffed, said Smith, citing an example from an inspection in Oxford, it can lead to issues of privacy, safety, medication, dental care, and food safety.
For more information on the Ontario Health Care Coalition, see www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca.
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