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Del Duca urges Ford to help long-term care workers, fast-track foreign-trained health professions

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Mar 30, 2020 by Robert Benzie Toronto Star
Workers in Ontario’s long-term care homes deserve additional personal protective equipment and a $4-an-hour raise for their crucial COVID-19 efforts, says Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca. Del Duca would also like to see thousands of foreign-trained health professionals be allowed to practise in Ontario because of the high demand for doctors and nurses during the pandemic. In a letter Monday to Premier Doug Ford, he praises the Progressive Conservative government for its efforts in containing the virus. “Thank you for your actions on price gouging, supply chain management and limiting gatherings to no more than five people in Ontario. These are important measures. I know things are moving quickly and there are new developments every day,” the Liberal leader wrote.

“Yesterday, your government moved to suspend certain regulations under the Long-Term Care Act, expanding the potential workforce in long-term care homes,” he said.

That has raised safety concerns from nurses, personal support workers, and the elderly residents of those facilities. Del Duca urged the Tories to immediately “at the very least, double the budget for PPE (personal protective equipment) from $75 million to $150 million.” “The changes made to the supply chain of PPE are very important,” he said, referring to Ford’s push to ensure more gear is being manufactured and distributed. “They must be coupled with the long-term care homes being connected to those regional supply management tables. Due to high risk of the residents and staff, long-term care homes ought to be a priority when PPE supplies become available.”

The Liberal leader also recommends a $4-an-hour raise for every long-term care worker for next three months to offset the lost pay from limits on the number of facilities caregivers can work in during the crisis.
“Many care providers work in more than one care facility,” he said, noting the recommendation from Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s chief medical officer of health “limiting the number of facilities a worker can work in is creating difficult choices and financial hardship for care providers and their families.”

Del Duca also suggested iPads or other tablet computers be provided to the homes “so loved ones can talk to their families, would help families stay connected, improve mental health and keep residents from feeling fully isolated.”

Finally, he asked Ford to “examine the feasibility” of turning to the thousands of foreign-trained doctors and nurses, who are not licensed to practice in Ontario, for their help during the pandemic. Fast-tracking the approval of professional credentials could help regions in need of more health workers. “There are 13,000 foreign-educated doctors and 6,000 foreign-educated nurses whose expertise can assist the province at this time,” he said.

“Other jurisdictions, like New York state, are taking this approach.”

Robert Benzie Queen’s Park Bureau Chief for the Toronto Star.

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