By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Donna Benoit wants her 95-year-old mother Loretta to stay put in Tilbury.
That means attracting a new long-term care facility to the West Kent community as Tilbury Manor Nursing Home – where her mother lives – is closing with its 75 beds to be reallocated to a new home in Belle River some 30 kilometres away.
“We need to have something in Tilbury,” Benoit said. “I’m pretty sure it could be supported, probably something larger than what we have.”
Afflicted by dementia, Loretta has been a resident at Manor for the past five years, continuing to live in the community where she has spent most of her life.
It’s where her family and friends are, Benoit explained, adding the central location ideal for family and friends.
And while COVID-19 threw a wrench into visiting, having her mother in the small town nursing home was very reassuring to Benoit and her siblings.
Benoit is among the thousands joining the chorus of the Ontario Health Coalition speaking out against the province’s privatization of long-term care.
A new campaign titled “Public Money, Private Profit:
The Ford Government & the Privatization of the Next Generation of Ontario’s Long-Term Care” takes aim at the government for spending taxpayer’s money on for-profit homes for aging seniors.
It was launched last week online allowing chapters throughout Ontario to raise their concerns.
Shirley Roebuck, chair on the Chatham-Kent chapter of the OHC, said the organization is trying to stop the government from “granting licenses to bad actors.”
The OHC has championed many efforts in the past, but Roebuck said this one is different.
“We are on a timeline,” she pointed out at a recent province-wide press conference. “The government is pushing through these licenses and they last for a 30-year period.”
Roebuck said many of the large corporations getting the new deals have “ghastly” records. Some of their for-profit nursing homes are where hundredss of elderly residents died during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Canadian Army was called in to help with the crisis in Ontario and Quebec, Roebuck said, that saw many elderly perish in terrible conditions.
According to the retired registered nurse, most people don’t want public money funnelled to companies with bad safety records – conditions exacerbated by companies that keep staffing levels low to increase profits.
The majority are not in favour of the creation of more for-profit long-term care beds, Roebuck stressed.
The licence for Arch Long-Term Care, the parent company that owns the aging Tilbury facility, as well as other homes including one in Leamington, was granted earlier this year.
The new contract covers the creation of 85 new spaces, along with the redevelopment of 75 beds – the number currently located in Tilbury. All of these will be moved to a new 160-bed site to be built in Belle River.
Roebuck said the loss of Tilbury Manor is a loss for the entire West Kent community.
While the loss of the West Kent landmark is a done deal, Roebuck said area residents have banded together under the Tilbury Area Action Team to try and attract another long-term care facility to the town.
As long as it’s not a for-profit home, Roebuck added, noting the OHC would like to see the Municipality of Chatham-Kent get more involved in the process.
“Municipal councils have a lot of power,” Roebuck noted. “They represent voters.”
Funding for the new home in Belle River was announced by Chatham-Kent—Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls late in 2020.
Following the decision, South Kent Coun. Clare Latimer put forward a motion to administration to advocate for keeping long-term care beds in Chatham-Kent.
However, it was too late as the province had already granted approval.