The Ontario Health Coalition is calling on provincial election candidates to make commitments to improve all aspects of healthcare if elected next month.
Lt.-Gov. Elizabeth Dowdeswell accepted Doug Ford's request to dissolve provincial parliament Tuesday, which launched the official start to the Ontario election campaign Wednesday.
OHC Executive Director Natalie Mehra said the healthcare industry has suffered during the pandemic and change is necessary.
"Ontario has seen, at this point, 4,500 people who lived in long term care die from COVID-19," said Mehra. "It's an extraordinary number. It's not normal. This is one of the highest death rates in the entire world and the majority of those died in for-profit long term care homes, so we're really concerned."
Mehra said despite the statistics, care levels have not improved.
"We're calling for all of the parties to make very concrete promises to fast track improvements to care levels in long term care, to end for-profit long term care and build new and redeveloped long term care beds as public and not-for-profit, rather than for-profit beds."
She said they'd also like to see inspections of long term care homes reinstated and standards enforced.
"After all of what's happened in Ontario, with the horrific death rate, with people really suffering, not one home has been fined. Not one operator. Not even the chain for-profits where most of the people died."
Mehra claims there have been no consequences, no licences lost, no criminal charges, for even the most delinquent operators during the pandemic.
"If there is no consequence and you can take out tens of millions of dollars of profit every month, even while your residents die of starvation or dehydration, they keep doing it."
Contrary to Mehra's claims, a long term care home in London where five residents and a nurse died, during a COVID-19 outbreak in April, 2020, was charged last October.
Sharon Farms & Enterprises Limited, the owner of Kensington Village, is facing three charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
The Ontario Health Coalition is also pushing for improved care in hospitals and across the healthcare system.
"The staffing shortages across healthcare really are the worst that we've ever seen," Mehra said. "It's the pandemic, people are burnt out, and it's also increasing workloads for years and years without respite. We think we need north of 50,000 full-time equivalent positions in Ontario. We need 30,000 or so just for long term care."
Mehra claims Ontario funds healthcare at the lowest rate of any province in the country.
"What we're calling for is to bring the funding for healthcare up to the average of the rest of Canada. We're not calling for the sun, moon, and sky, but that would be sufficient."
The 2022 Ontario general election will be held June 2.