Two peaceful protests were held in Barrie and Bradford on Friday for what the organizers hope will raise awareness about life inside long-term care facilities and the need for alternative options of care.
The protests were staged by the Warrior Advocate Crusade - All Seniors Lives Matter Seniors B4 Profit group.
Organizer Sparky Johnson says the group is travelling around the province to long-term care facilities, retirement homes and hospitals to shine a light on what she says is "years of neglect and abuse" that has been going on behind closed doors.
"We are here looking for accountability and justice," Johnson added. "We are small and peaceful and bringing awareness to communities."
Johnson and fellow group members Julie Farrell and Cheryl Spelliscy stood outside Roberta Place on Essa Road in south-end Barrie and Bradford Valley Care Community long-term care homes on Friday with posters illustrating their anger with the province's health-care system.
Both long-term care facilities were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 71 deaths linked to an outbreak at Roberta Place earlier this year.
All three women had loved ones who died in a long-term care facility and say they have been calling on the government for change and transparency.
"Standard of care needs to be the same for anyone in a congregate care setting," said Johnson.
She also wanted to make clear who they were protesting against.
“This is not a target against the workers; we need to make that very clear. We are here supporting not only the residents, but also the staff,” she said. “The staff have been set up to fail since Day 1."
Johnson says the issues inside long-term care facilities have been going on for years and COVID brought many of those concerns to the forefront.
“Roberta Place, as we very well know, was one of the hardest hit by COVID,” said Johnson.
“With a shortage of staff, corporations are profit-maximizing off the backs and lives of our loved ones," she added.
The group would also like to see mandatory, unannounced resident quality inspections happening more frequently.
"The lack of unannounced inspections... (is) allowing owners to continue with their cost-cutting and substandard care," said Johnson. "Residents and family members were left with a complaint-driven system where little to no action is taken, and/or accountability is ever having to be held."
According to the provincial ministry's website, unannounced inspections are performed under the Long-Term Care Home Quality Inspection Program as required in order to protect and safeguard residents and ensure long-term care homes comply with legislation and regulations.
The ministry also says the program safeguards residents’ well-being by investigating complaints and critical incidents, and by ensuring that all homes are inspected at least once per year.
Johnson says the group also hopes to see the reallocation of funds, alternative care, smaller home atmospheres, and other options for families.
— With files from Shawn Gibson