A decade of worries and hopes for seniors has come to a close.
For Réseau FADOQ, the past decade has been marked by both success and frustration. The network will begin a new cycle in 2020, celebrating its 50th anniversary, so this a good opportunity to reflect on how successful our demands for improved quality of life for seniors have been.
In her speech at the last Réseau FADOQ provincial convention, Marguerite Blais, the Minister Responsible for Seniors and Informal Caregivers, pledged to change the way politicians look at seniors’ issues. Her statement brings to mind an inevitable question: How willing are we as a society to implement tangible solutions to meet the challenges caused by accelerated population aging?
We are at a crossroads on many seniors’ issues. That’s something we’ve repeated over and over again.
We are at a crossroads on long-term care. Réseau FADOQ has been fighting for ten years to get government to take real action and put an end to elder abuse. Since 2010, we have participated in multiple consultations on housing and long-term care. These led to us making a number of recommendations, but little action has been taken by the government. In the meantime, waiting lists have grown. As of January 2020, over 3,000 seniors are still suffering as a result of the lack of spaces in CHSLDs. That’s troubling.
The 2010s ended on a positive note, with the government committing $2.6 billion to transform certain CHSLDs and create 2,600 new spaces in seniors’ homes by 2022. The Legault government’s schedule is ambitious, so implementation will need to be equally aggressive. The promised spaces must be deployed in areas where needs are most urgent. And they will need to go hand in hand with swift hiring of qualified nursing staff. Time is running out and caregiver/patient ratios need to change soon to improve quality of care and resident safety.
Let’s talk about the ratio problems because they are closely tied to horror stories about the organizational abuse that has harmed too many seniors over the past decade. The poor living conditions imposed on CHSLD residents have been denounced by Réseau FADOQ in interviews, press releases, briefs, and press conferences.
We got involved to ensure CHSLD residents get a bare minimum of comfort. As a result of our demands, they won the right to install cameras in CHSLDs and are now allowed a second bath. We also backed a $500 million class action suit against all CHSLDs in the province, which has been green lit by the Superior Court of Quebec. As we begin a new decade, let’s humanize the system by better supporting healthcare professionals and enabling them to care for patients adequately. Let’s improve work organization, eliminate compulsory overtime, and give them some recognition. Such measures will be crucial in dealing with the labour shortage.
The prevalence of financial insecurity among seniors also raises big questions. Many are struggling to meet their basic needs. Our concerns prompted us to file a lawsuit in 2016 that forced Ottawa to enforce the Canada Health Act and put an end to extra billing to patients, ultimately leading to the abolition of accessory healthcare costs in Quebec. We also succeeded in increasing the Guaranteed Income Supplement and making registration automatic.
Retirement income is another important economic issue. Réseau FADOQ does not understand why pension funds are not better protected. Over the next decade, pension funds must be elevated to the status of secured creditors. A pension fund insurance plan like the one in Ontario also needs to be set up in Quebec. We must put workers and retirees’ interests first, as our organization did in 2017 when it pressured Quebec on the necessity of topping up the Quebec Pension Plan (QPP) and keeping the first payment of Old Age Security benefits at age 65.
A new decade has begun and there is still no shortage of battles to be fought to improve quality of life for seniors. On its 50th anniversary, the network stands as a social safety net for all seniors and a crucial shield against loneliness and abuse. Our organization has come of age, and has what it takes to continue serving, advocating for, educating, and uniting seniors. May we continue to win great victories together!