Protest in Dryden calls for more funding

Merna Emara
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

On Thursday, about 15 protesters gathered in front of 479 Government Rd. in Dryden, Ontario, to ask the provincial government for increased staffing and funding for long-term care homes.
Katrina Peterson, vice-president of Unifor Local 324 and a full time registered practical nurse at the Princess Court long-term care home in Dryden, said outbreaks in long-term care homes are escalating quickly across Ontario as it is officially the second wave of COVID-19.
“We are protesting the decisions that are being made by the Ford government in regards to long-term care,” Peterson said. “We’re seeing a lot of issues with staffing levels. We’ve lost a lot of staff in here in Dryden this fall due to COVID-19.”
Some of the employers Unifor Local 324 represents include the Hoshizaki House, Kenora Forest Products, the Township of Ear Falls and Princess Court.
Peterson said staffing has been an issue at long-term care homes before COVID-19. However, the pandemic made it harder for the 100 staff members at the Princess Court long-term care home to manage the workload.
“There’s just there isn’t the amount of students that are coming out of school in this field,” Peterson said. “Many come into the field, start working, they find it too difficult and they end up leaving. They’re finding it too stressful and too physical. With the increased workload, because of the staffing decreased, plus the extra long hours. It’s really getting more difficult for people.”
Peterson also said they lost staff to other job commitments because they have not been allowed to work in two places at once. Therefore, they are pushing the government to increase wages across the board for Ontario, just to allow for more full time positions and more living wage for everyone so that they can stay in long term care as opposed to having two or three jobs to supplement their income, she added.
Since March, the provincial government announces rounds of funding to long-term care homes to help them with the added costs brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Two weeks ago, the Ford government announced $500 million in funding in long-term care homes to be used to hire more staff, purchase equipment and prevent infections. There are currently 630 long-term care homes in Ontario serving about 70,0000 residents annually.
Peterson said if $500 million were equally distributed among long-term care homes, it would still not be enough to provide residents a safe environment during the biggest modern public health crisis.
“We truly believe that if they look at making it a permanent fix by adding more funds, helping to provide more full time positions and hiring more staff particularly personal support workers right now that it would be more cost effective for them with a long-term plan as opposed to this short term fix that they’re looking at,” Peterson said.