Public inquiry needed into long-term care in PEI
*originally published in The Guardian, June 28, 2022
It is without a doubt that across this country the people who have suffered most from COVID are seniors living in long-term care.
Here on P.E.I., we have heard stories of residents not getting out of bed for days, not having a bath for four weeks, and eating in their rooms alone for weeks at a time. The impacts to their physical and mental health alone have been immense.
Since the Omicron wave hit P.E.I. in December 2021, 30 families on our small Island have lost a loved one to COVID while living in long-term care.
Recently, the Dennis King government announced a new “external” panel, rather than a public inquiry, to study the impacts of COVID-19 on long-term care. The label “external” is questionable. The panel will report directly to Premier King’s Cabinet. It is chaired by someone who, up until last year, was an advisor to cabinet. It also lacks the tools to conduct a fulsome investigation.
Consider that most cases and deaths in long-term care have occurred in private homes—in other words, homes not operated by government. Since private long-term care homes operate outside of government, the external panel has no powers to compel private operators to hand over relevant documents or provide testimony. However, the panel would have these powers if it was established as a commission under the Public Inquiries Act. Unfortunately, the King government has made a conscious decision to restrict this panel of any ability to do a fulsome investigation.
We are also concerned about the time and resources Premier King has granted to the panel to conduct this review. In less than half a year, he expects this panel to consult with thousands of Islanders, review the state of long-term care on PEI, identify best practices, and deliver recommendations—all on a budget of $60,000. On its face, this feels extremely rushed.
Islanders deserve to know the truth about the state of long-term care in Prince Edward Island. We owe it to the family members that lost loved ones prematurely. We owe it to the frontline healthcare workers that have been raising concerns for years.
It’s time for Premier King to do the right thing — launch a public inquiry into long-term care.
Michele Beaton, MLA Mermaid-Stratford
Official Opposition Green Critic for Health and Wellness