Long-term care unions urge government to listen to experts on minimum care standards and pass Bill 13

October 27, 2020

TORONTO, ON – CUPE Ontario, SEIU Healthcare and Unifor held a joint press conference on Tuesday morning, calling on the Ontario government to legislate a minimum care standard of four hours of hands-on care in long-term care homes by immediately passing Bill 13, the Time to Care Act.
Based on the latest pre-pandemic calculations by the Ontario Health Coalition, Ontario’s long-term care homes average about 2.7 hours of daily care. The calculation is based on worked hours of care, as opposed to paid hours.

“We need to give seniors in Ontario a guaranteed care standard to help enhance the quality of working and living conditions in long term care. The lack of a staffing standard means that the care levels are left up to the individual facilities to establish, and we know that virtually across the province, staffing levels are dangerously low. It’s high time the government takes action by passing Bill 13,” said Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario.
The legislation, an NDP private member’s bill introduced by Teresa Armstrong, will be debated during second reading on Wednesday evening. The unions echoed the recommendations of the government’s own staffing advisory panel report released in July, and last week’s interim report by the Long-Term Care Commission. Both reports called for the implementation of a four-hour minimum care standard, with the latter stressing its immediacy.

“Families, experts, and frontline workers all agree that current staffing levels are too low to deliver quality care for our most vulnerable in long-term care. Inaction means denying seniors dignity and it means unsafe workplaces for health care workers. It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare. “Bill 13 would afford frontline staff the time necessary to do the job well and do it safely. My message to the Ontario government and all members of the Legislative Assembly: pass this bill and give workers the time to care.”

“For years, health care workers, residents, their families and even opposition conservative MPPs in 2017 called for a legislated minimum standard of care in long-term care,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to Unifor National President. “Bill 13 will finally implement long overdue improvements in these facilities and we expect the government to set partisanship aside to show those who live and work in long-term care the respect they deserve.”

Unions leaders were joined at the media conference by Dr. Pat Armstrong, the distinguished professor of sociology at York University, who has been researching long-term care for over two decades. Dr. Armstrong and 24 other academics recently released an open letter to the Ontario legislature, calling for action on Bill 13.

“COVID-19 has created a consensus on what research has been saying for decades; namely, without sufficient staff neither residents nor staff are safe, let alone thriving,” said Dr. Armstrong. “Recent research shows that staffing levels are strongly associated with COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care, emphasizing the importance of moving quickly to achieve these minimums.”

Ontario’s long-term care sector has not had a minimum care standard since the Ontario Progressive Conservative government eliminated it in 1996. Since then, healthcare unions and multiple advocacy groups have consistently called for a restoration of the staffing requirement. The Ontario Long-Term Care Association, which mainly represents for-profit providers, has consistently opposed a care standard.