Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus prompted by pandemic
CORNWALL — Regional governments must do as much as they can to protect the most vulnerable in their communities, United Counties of SDG Warden Frank Prevost said Thursday in reference to the long-term care sector.
Prevost’s comment on that “imperative” goal followed a meeting of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus (EOWC), which gathered for its first virtual session May 29 to discuss priorities in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that has hit nursing homes particularly hard.
Regional governments operate or otherwise fund a number of nursing homes using municipal tax dollars. SDG taxpayers, for example, contribute to Glen Stor Dun Lodge, operated by the City of Cornwall.
“The COVID-19 pandemic shed light on the sector and the need to address certain long-standing systemic issues,” said Prevost in a press release. “EOWC member municipalities have the expertise of operating long-term care homes and are committed to working alongside the province during its review of Ontario’s long-term care system.”
The EOWC plans to complete a comprehensive “current state” analysis of the municipally operated long-term care sector — a “key area of focus” for the member regional governments.
As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to evolve, the EOWC recognizes the need to adjust its priorities to represent the current and anticipated environments facing municipalities and businesses, said EOWC Chair Andy Letham. “During these unprecedented and challenging times, the EOWC remains committed to ensuring that rural eastern Ontario’s needs are met and will continue to work collaboratively with senior governments on recovery efforts.”
Long-term care residents account for 64 percent of COVID-19 deaths in Ontario — with 1,557 having succumbed to the virus at nursing homes.
Other ‘reframed’ 2020 priorities for the EOWC
The COVID-19 crisis also has the EOWC highlighting the need for an expansion in rural broadband services and other policies to promote economic recovery. The organization continues to pursue and support the Eastern Ontario Regional Network Cellular Network Improvement Project and Broadband Gap Strategy to improve connectivity. And it points out that only 63 percent of the region’s households and businesses had access to 50/10 Mbps standards.
Seeing itself as having “a critical role to play” in the region’s economic recovery, the EOWC says it continues to work with the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council (EOLC) towards that end. “The impacts of COVID-19 have been significant, and the EOWC and EOLC are committed to helping stimulate the local economy and to supporting municipalities and small businesses.”