Andrea Horwath to host virtual town hall to discuss long-term care in Barrie following tragic Roberta Place outbreak

NDP leader says Ford government failed to take steps to protect long-term care before the second wave

An outbreak declaration has been in effect at Roberta Place in Barrie for over a month now. The leader of Ontario’s official opposition tells Barrie 360 a lack of action has led to a “humanitarian crisis” at the long-term care home.

“I think it’s pretty clear that there really was no “iron ring” around long-term care and the measures that the government should have taken through the summer to prepare for the second wave were not undertaken,” Horwath told Barrie 360 Wednesday afternoon. “There’s just so many pieces that could have been addressed and it’s shocking that they weren’t. Because the result, as we’ve seen, has been a humanitarian crisis in Roberta Place. I mean, every single person who is a resident has contracted COVID-19.”

All 128 residents of the facility had contracted the virus; 69 lives were lost during the outbreak. There have been no new cases reported since late January and no deaths since February 2.

Horwath is hosting a virtual town hall for residents to discuss the outbreak at Roberta Place and the state of long-term care in the city and across the province. She will be joined by NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh, Opposition Critic for Seniors, Home Care, and Long-Term Care.

All 128 residents of Roberta Place contracted the virus during the outbreak, while 69 have died

While Horwath says her party has a plan to fix issues in long-term care across Ontario, it was pointed out to her that previous governments, including former NDP Premier Bob Rae, had promised to address the issue. She says it’s a question of priority. “I’ve actually made that commitment, and we’ve put out a detailed platform plank a couple of months ago because the solutions are not unknown,” she said. “There have been a number of studies and inquest and inquiries and even the commission that the Ford government has put in place have made recommendations and the government’s ignoring them.”

The outbreak at Roberta Place is confirmed to have involved a variant of the COVID-19 virus, known as B.1.1.7., and Horwath says that is especially problematic with the lifting of the stay-at-home order on the horizon. “None of the extra measures are being put in place to stop the spread of COVID-19, particularly the variance of concern. There’s no widespread testing in workplaces, for example, there’s no widespread asymptomatic testing in schools. The government, Mr. Ford, stubbornly refuses to put paid sick days in place in Ontario, so that if a worker is not feeling well, they don’t have to make a choice between staying home and protecting their coworkers.”

While the province has promised asymptomatic testing to any schools that request it, it has yet to materialize in Simcoe-Muskoka

“Unfortunately, I think what we’re going see is, the government’s making the same mistake over and over and over again,” she added. “That’s really problematic; people should be able to come out of this lockdown feeling like they’re not going to have to be another one, that we finally wrestled this virus to the ground, but we’re certainly not going to get there if the government continues to not want to spend the money.”

Folks can participate in this evening’s town hall with NDP Leader Horwath via her Facebook page.

The town hall gets underway at 7 p.m.