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Gillese report highlights gaps in care

by Dianne Martin

The crimes of Elizabeth Wettlaufer have rightly shocked, hurt and challenged the moral beliefs of many of us. But they have also shone a much-needed spotlight onto some of the gaps in our health system. By now her story is well known. While working as a nurse at a long-term care home in Woodstock, she began injecting some residents with insulin, in some cases resulting in deaths, in others causing severe pain and suffering to her victims. In the end she confessed to and was charged with aggravated assault and murder for those cases. This unthinkable tragedy led the Ontario government to call a public inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes System. This week, commissioner Eileen E. Gillese released her inquiry report and proposed 91 thoughtful recommendations aimed at ensuring resident safety within long-term care homes. These are important and necessary recommendations that must be taken seriously and acted upon swiftly by government, long-term care providers and the broader health community, including those of us who represent frontline health professionals. But the inquiry has also raised the question about the quality of care we’re offering older Ontarians.
Is being safe enough? We can and should do more to ensure that Ontario’s elderly population receives the care and attention they deserve. Regardless of one’s physical and cognitive well-being, older Ontarians should experience joy, fulfilment and agency. Those who helped build this province in their youth, deserve nothing less. As life expectancies grow and our population continues to age, the pressure on our hospitals will only increase. Caring for older Ontarians outside of a hospital setting, within their own home or communities is not only more cost effective, it is much more people centric. That’s why Ontario’s 45,000 Registered Practical Nurses (RPN), many of whom work in the long-term care sector, welcomed the Ford Government’s recent commitment to add 15,000 new long-term care beds across the province over five years, as well as their promise this week to provide new funding to help address the recommendations of the Gillese report. But adding more long-term care beds to the system is just part of the solution.
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