Gretzky tables bill for essential caregivers

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / Bialasiewicz

A new private members’ bill would allow residents of congregate settings to choose their essential caregiver, and allow that person access even if there is a second wave of COVID-19.

Windsor West MPP Lisa Gretzky plans to introduce the “More Than A Visitor Act” in the Ontario legislature Wednesday afternoon.

Back in July, she introduced a motion asking the government to recognize that an essential caregiver is more than just a visitor at the province’s long-term care, retirement, and group homes during the pandemic.

However, after two months, Gretzky told reporters the government has taken no action, and some caregivers have not had access to their loved ones in six months now.

“The guidance, and it is just guidance, is being interpreted differently by different homes,” she said emphasizing the need for conformity. “There is no consistency. Some are saying you can come into the homes — some are still denying access to their caregivers.”

This past summer, Gretzky highlighted the plight of Pamela Libralsesso who, by that point, had not had access to her 14-year-old son in a group home for four months.

“He communicates through touch. He’s non-verbal. He has no other way to communicate. Mom and Dad had no communication with him for six months,” said Gretzky. “Having him trying to communicate through a computer screen or a window was not appropriate.”

Other caregivers have said they were denied access because they were not blood relatives.

“Caregivers could be family members, they could be friends, they could be neighbours, someone who is important to that particular resident. It is up to the resident to decide who their caregiver is,” offered Gretzky when asked who would get access under the bill.

The bill would seek input from families, residents, healthcare professionals, and others before implementing a strategy that would include appropriate funding for personal protective equipment and staff in congregate care homes. Gretzky admitted the cost would vary from home to home, and a total cost to provincial taxpayers would not be known until the strategy is set.