A protest was held outside a long-term care home in the Annex where a COVID-19 outbreak has led to the deaths of more than a dozen residents.

Maureen McDermott said she organized the protest to show solidarity with the residents and staff of St. George Care Community and to call on the government to take action and send help to assist in controlling the outbreak.

The facility has one of the worst outbreaks in the province.

“We are screaming for Merrilee Fullerton (Minister of Long-Term Care) to get back to work. Doug Ford to get back to work, get your $12 billion and start spending it,” McDermott said.

“There’s barely any staff left in here. Staff are not coming into work. Staff are sick, and the ones that are in here are absolutely burnt out.”

This their fourth protest at the home in the past eight days, and McDermott vowed that they will continue to hold demonstrations until their pleas are heard, and residents get the help they need.

“We need the military. We need just able bodies to get in here, and hundreds of others across Ontario and it has to happen,” she said.

“I ask you, everybody watching, what would you do if it was your mum? You wouldn’t stop either.”

Since the outbreak was declared in early December at the facility, a total of 156 residents had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. As of Sunday, 45 residents remain infected.

According to the data from the province, 14 residents have died after contracting COVID-19.

Meanwhile, there are 28 active cases among staff members.

The University Health Network has temporarily taken over the management of the home from Sienna Living.

According to the ministry, there have been no new resident cases at the home since Jan. 3.

“We are confident in the ability of the University Health Network to continue to manage and stabilize the home. We will continue to work closely with our health care sector partners to return the home to normal operations,” a spokesperson for Minister Fullerton said in an e-mail to CP24.

The ministry also said nine residents of the home have been moved to the province’s Specialized Care Centre, which was created to provide care for residents who must be temporarily relocated because of the situation in their homes.

There are active outbreaks of COVID-19 in 248 of the province’s 626 long-term care homes as of Sunday.

‘Please help’

An emotional Green Party Leader, Annamie Paul, was at the protest to show her support. Paul shared that her father was a resident at St. George and died during the first wave of the pandemic. While her father’s death was not due to COVID-19, she said it was because of the “perfect storm of conditions.”

“The perfect storm is that we have facilities that are understaffed, already before the pandemic hit. The pandemic hits, and those understaffed, overworked, low paid racialized women who take care valiantly of the people in these facilities have to deal with COVID cases, at the same time, as they’re dealing with people like my father, who have had strokes who have dementia, who have Alzheimer’s who have very profound needs,” Paul said.

“What we saw in the first wave, and what we’re seeing in the second wave is that people are dying. This is a plea. This is a plea on behalf of every single person who has someone who is still alive in these facilities, and every single person who has lost someone in these facilities -- please help.”

Paul is urging all levels of governments to have a political will to do what needs to be done to protect seniors at these facilities because she said what’s happening is a “humanitarian crisis” – a phrase she noted she does not use lightly.

The Green Party leader said she is anguished that the protective measures many experts pushed for to avoid a repeat of what happened during the first wave were not put in place at long-term care homes before the second wave hit.

“I will be here in the name of my father, in the name of their loved ones, and in the name of every single person that knows that we can do better,” Paul said.

“This is not the Canada that we believe in. These are not our values. We are not going to abandon those who have worked and lived in this country their entire lives and contributed to it and are at the end of their lives. We are not going to abandon them to the fate of a lonely, terrifying, avoidable death.”

Paul is calling on the federal government to intervene and protect long-term care residents.

“The Prime Minister cannot hide behind a federal jurisdiction. He cannot simply say I’m ready to act if I’m invited to act. Every single person who is a resident of Ontario is a Canadian resident as well, and they deserve the protection of their federal government,” Paul said.

“The first job of a federal government is to ensure the security of its citizens. And in this case, they are not doing that.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who was also at the demonstration, said what’s happening at long-term care facilities are heartbreaking, wrong and inexcusable.

He said the pandemic has shown that long-term care homes need to be non-profit.

“I want to make it really clear one of the solutions that all the experts agree, the military pointed this out as well, is that because of for-profit long-term care, the seniors were getting less care,” Singh said.

“Profit has been killing seniors, so we’re making a very clear demand. We need to get profit out of long-term care.”

Singh said there is no excuse that a country like Canada, which has been able to secure millions of doses, has not vaccinated long-term care residents.

“We are a developed nation with incredible resources and know how we can get this done. It has to be done,” he said.

“This is a problem. We have to have a clear plan. We need to know what that is, and we need to see it put in place so that seniors are vaccinated, vulnerable people are vaccinated and we are saving people’s lives.”