September 16th, 2020

Gretzky introduces More Than A Visitor Act to guarantee congregate care residents the right to access essential caregivers

QUEEN’S PARK – NDP MPP Lisa Gretzky (Windsor West) announced a new private member’s bill, the More Than A Visitor Act, to be tabled in the Ontario legislature on Wednesday. The new bill enshrines rights for people receiving care, support or services in congregate care settings, such as long-term care and group homes, to ensure consistent, continuous and safe access to their essential caregivers.

“For six months, Ontarians across the province have had their lives turned upside down due to the pandemic,” said Gretzky. “For residents in long-term care homes, group homes, and retirement homes, it has been particularly devastating. It has meant that they are confined to their homes or rooms nearly every day, with little to no quality of life.”

“Numerous reports have shown that the visitor policies in congregate care settings which keep out essential caregivers are causing devastating isolation, mental and physical decline, regressive behaviour, and depression.”

The Ford government’s directives for congregate care settings were implemented early in the pandemic, in an effort to limit infection risk. Gretzky says that safety remains absolutely critical, but the government has failed in its responsibility to ensure residents still have meaningful, appropriate access to their caregivers, while ensuring homes and operators have the tools they need to implement this.

“Throughout the pandemic, the Ford government heard from families and experts that the total restriction of caregivers was causing incredible harm to residents,” said Gretzky. “Yet they consistently refused to step up with the funding, increased staffing, training, and infection control protocols needed to ensure residents could access their caregivers safely. They simply said it couldn’t be done, and that’s not good enough – we need to ensure residents have rights and those rights are upheld.”

Gretzky’s bill also sets out the framework for a Caregiver Strategy going forward, which will bring together residents, caregivers, workers and experts and advocacy groups with the goal of making policies related to the role of caregivers in Ontario. The strategy will also include a critically important staffing strategy for all congregate care settings in order to properly meet the care needs of residents while addressing chronic understaffing.

“We are approaching a second wave of COVID-19 and we need to be prepared. The number one priority is keeping people safe and well, and that includes access to essential caregivers. I am urging the Ford government to pass the More Than A Visitor Act to ensure that residents are kept safe and their rights are protected, now and into the future,” added Gretzky.