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LETTER: Tragedy that occurred at Roberta Place must never be forgotten

'It’s time we ended the for profit industry of elder care,' says Canadian Federation of University Women Barrie and District president
2021-01-12 Roberta Place RB 2
Roberta Place is located on Essa Road in Barrie's south end.

BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter about the Roberta Place outbreak — which was declared over on Feb. 18 — is from Monica Peckham, president of the Canadian Federation of University Women Barrie and District.

As the tragedy at Barrie’s Roberta Place long-term care home fades from the national headlines, let us never forget that here in our community over half the residents of a home trusted with their care, have died so far from COVID-19. Let us also not forget that the shameful extent of this carnage, described by an attending doctor as a “war zone," was predictable and preventable.

These were our friends, neighbours and family and for decades now successive governments have known about the under-funding, neglect and subsequent abuse of residents of long-term care and nursing homes. Shocking stories of our elders left in their own waste, slowly fading from malnutrition and dehydration have been regularly featured in the news. And each time governments have expressed horror at these conditions and pledged to do better and yet as the stories fade from the headlines very little changes.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen again and that we all take time to contact our MPs and MPPs so they know that we will not accept this shameful warehousing of seniors any more.

Of course, it isn’t just here in Barrie but throughout the province. Over 80 per cent of all COVID-related deaths in Canada were in long-term care. This is double the average of any other OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] country. That is a failure of public policy and an embarrassment to us all and we must make sure it ends.

This isn’t just about COVID, it’s about how we have under-valued the care and dignity of our elders for decades and there are steps that need to be taken.

First of all, we need to ensure there are regular, unannounced inspections of long-term care homes. This should be non-controversial, so why isn’t it happening? Next, there must be adequate budgets to ensure proper staffing levels, proper pay and training for caregivers, most of whom are doing their best in a dreadful situation. And, of course, we need to ask ourselves and our elected leaders how profit is being made and at what cost in these homes. It’s time we ended the for profit industry of elder care.

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list of reforms that have to be made and have often been promised. There are many studies over the years and the recent open letter by Doctors for Justice in long-term care pithily lays out where the inadequacies lay.

This is simply a call to never forget what happens to seniors in care, to commit ourselves to continue to demand resources and reform and to collectively shed a tear for how our society is all the poorer for the souls we’ve lost through neglect. 

Monica Peckham
Canadian Federation of University Women Barrie and District, president