Premier Doug Ford and OPSEU President Smokey Thomas had opposing versions of whether or not OPSEU members who are nursing home inspectors refused to go into Nursing homes during the pandemic. Ford said Thursday that he’s sick of “taking bullets” for unionized government inspectors who, he alleges, refused to go into the province’s long-term care homes to carry out inspections in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic because of safety concerns.
“The truth of the matter is, [inspectors] were refusing to go into these homes,” Ford said during his daily press briefing. “Enough’s enough. They have to be accountable too.”
Questioned by a television reporter Thomas denied that workers had refused to go into the nursing homes but then backtracked, saying the protocols for having the inspectors visiting the homes were not clear, suggesting there had been at least a time earlier in the pandemic when inspections were not carried out.
In a letter written to Ford and Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton dated April 22, Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) President Smokey Thomas said inspectors were “over-worked and frustrated,” but “dutifully committed to their obligations amidst this pandemic.
“They continue to investigate what needs to be done to flatten the curve and save lives, despite the fact only 164 inspectors are on the job supporting 626 homes,” Thomas wrote, while also pushing for increased staffing.
“The inspectors want to go into the homes and they want to do the inspections, because that’s what they do. They feel very morally obligated to do so,” Thomas said. All the union wanted to do was ensure inspections were done safely, with personal protective equipment in place before inspectors were sent in, he added.
The Unions representing personal care workers at nursing homes faced some sharp media questioning when the Canadian Forces released their scathing report this week as the reports detailed some instances of abusive behavior by the union members towards helpless residents.