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Revised Ontario emergency powers may do more harm than good in long-term care

March 28, 2020 - 12:00 AM

March 29, 2020

TORONTO— Unifor is concerned that the latest revisions to Ontario’s emergency powers could cause future health and safety issues for residents in long-term care homes, as they don’t have to report incidents or follow normal hiring guidelines. Shortages in personal support workers have already plagued the industry well before the pandemic.

“Our members understood the need for the Ontario government’s initial temporary order giving long-term care operators extraordinary emergency powers to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “These latest revisions to the act from Doug Ford jeopardize the health and safety of our most vulnerable citizens. Our seniors deserve highly trained and qualified health care workers caring for them, not shoe-ins determined by the employer without appropriate oversight."

On March 23, 2020, the Ontario government introduced the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act giving long-term care homes extraordinary emergency powers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 similar to what they did days earlier for hospitals. The revisions to the act amend subsection 7.0.2 (4) of the Emergency management and civil protection act, which changes language on reporting obligations and hiring of new staff in long term care homes.

“The revised powers given to employers are extreme and allow long term care home employers to get out of many of their reporting obligations and they can now circumvent the qualifications needed to hire new employees,” said Naureen Rizvi, Ontario Regional Director. “We have already heard that some employers are asking library workers to temporarily work in long-term care homes. Library workers and health care workers are both important in their own right, but having any worker who is not trained to work in a long term care home is careless, dangerous and unfair to Ontarians.”

“We’ve given the Minister of Long-Term Care, Merrilee Fullerton concrete suggestions on how they could actually attract qualified personal support workers who have left the industry to come back,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to the National President. “They can immediately up-staff all nursing homes, utilizing casual and part-time workers who are able to work full time hours so they actually have time to provide safe care practices to protect these residents, and add a modest premium to attract qualified staff. We know that COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care are deadly, and this government should be pulling out all the stops to protect lives.”

Unifor will continue to provide updates as information becomes available at unifor.org/COVID19.