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HANNAH BELL: P.E.I. government’s response to soaring inflation must reflect the burden it is placing on Island families

Last week Statistics Canada published the Consumer Price Index report for December 2021 and the news for P.E.I. isn’t good. P.E.I. experienced the highest rate of inflation in the country. Our inflation is 5.1 per cent while for the rest of Canada it is 3.4 per cent. P.E.I. has the highest increases in the country from fuel oil costs to housing prices where rental cost increases are four times the national average.

These numbers represent something Islanders already know. They are feeling the real impact of these inflation numbers, especially when it comes to housing, transportation, heating, and food.

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OLE HAMMARLUND: Calling for improvements to ventilation in Island schools

The King government has failed to update and maintain the ventilation systems in Island schools. As the Official Opposition has pointed out, 10 schools on PEI still have no mechanical ventilation at all. Over the last two years, we have been facing the additional threat of airborne COVID transmission in the classroom. With the Omicron variant, the threat to students, teachers, and staff is even greater.

The King government’s response has been to purchase portable HEPA filter units for classrooms with inadequate ventilation. These units could be a great solution for a small or medium-sized room occupied by a few people, but they are not designed to deal with crowds or larger rooms. It is like trying to heat an auditorium with a plug-in electric heater.

A portable HEPA unit will clean the air in its vicinity but may never reach areas in the classroom further away. It is also slow, so the unit may take many hours to filter the contamination from a crowd of 25 people. They also do not bring in the fresh air, leaving it stale. This lack of fresh air contributes to students feeling drowsy.

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TRISH ALTASS: Inconsistency of COVID restrictions and lack of support for Island workers leave many feeling anxious

Yesterday’s COVID briefing brought in much-needed restrictions to address the growing cases of COVID in our province. However, with the announcement came very little on how the government will support Island workers during this stressful time. This is leading to many questions about where they fit into the King government’s plans to keep all Islanders safe.

First of all, the restrictions announced yesterday include only a partial shutdown of businesses. What is considered essential, and why are some things that were not deemed essential in prior lockdowns now open? In fact, there has been no discussion of what is or is not essential this time around. For example, we see gyms closed while retail remains open even though we know physical activity is a critical component of Islanders’ physical and mental health.

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MICHELE BEATON: Calling on King government to enforce COVID protocols in LTC to keep residents and workers safe

Despite having two years to plan for the COVID outbreaks happening in long-term care (LTC) today, the King government did nothing.

Earlier this week, Peter Bevan Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition, called on Premier King to take immediate action to address the growing crisis in long-term care. Since then, the Official Opposition continues to hear from concerned families of LTC residents and healthcare workers. They are worried and scared for the safety of both residents and workers. It is time for this government to accept the responsibility of oversight of our LTC facilities.

 

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PETER BEVAN-BAKER: Immediate action is needed to address the growing crisis in long-term care

The Omicron wave of COVID is showing us how vulnerable our healthcare system is on PEI and is highlighting real challenges in our long-term care (LTC) system.

Last week, I shared concerns from healthcare workers and family members that staffing shortages in LTC homes are putting Island seniors at risk. Michele Beaton, the Official Opposition Critic for Health and Wellness, also shared how Minister Ernie Hudson can improve these staffing shortages. 

Since then, I have heard numerous reports that the situation in some LTC homes has deteriorated further. Worsening staff shortages are leading to a decrease in the care provided to residents, and COVID protocols not being followed. This is putting both LTC residents and healthcare workers at risk. 

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MICHELE BEATON: calling on Minister Hudson to provide immediate access to rapid tests for community organizations needing them

While the King government is failing to control the spread of Omicron in this COVID wave, community organizations have gone above and beyond to ensure that vital services continue to be offered in a safe way. Community organizations serve our most vulnerable Islanders including seniors, persons with disabilities, children, the homeless, and people at risk. One way they have ensured safety is through the use of rapid tests to detect and prevent the spread of COVID.

Now the King government has directed PEI nonprofits and charities to apply through the Canadian Red Cross to access a federally funded rapid test supply rather than through the province. Based on recent information from the Canadian Red Cross (PEI Division), it generally takes 2-3 weeks to receive, process, and approve applications, and then coordinate shipments of test kits. This means for organizations applying today may receive their supply of tests by the end of January, provided their application is even approved.

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What is the King government’s plan for back to school and when will they share it with Islanders?

It has been more than a week since the King government further delayed the reopening of schools for Island children. During the briefing Dr. Morrison was asked if the measures the government is putting in place going forward were in place today, would schools be returning to in-person learning. Her answer was “No.”

“Islanders want to see their children safely back in school, and they want to know government is using this time to ensure we can indeed safely return to school. Unfortunately, I don’t see anything to suggest we’re better off today than we were last week,” said Lynne Lund, Official Opposition Critic for Education and Lifelong Learning. “After an additional week to prepare, Islanders are asking: is the CPHO confident the government has done enough to safely reopen schools on January 17th? And if we are delaying again, what will the government do differently to improve things?”

With the planned reopening only days away, Islanders are still waiting for an update from the government on details.

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PETER BEVAN-BAKER: Rising hospitalizations are showing the King government response to Omicron is flawed

After today’s briefing, it is becoming clear the King government’s response to rising cases of COVID in the province is flawed.

“Today the Premier said once again that he is following indicators to let us know whether or not we are on the right track,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition. “A quick look at those indicators proves that we are not. Case numbers, hospitalizations, and outbreaks in vulnerable populations are all increasing.”

Also during his comments, the Premier said that when it comes to this outbreak, he doesn’t know where we are.

“I am unsure how that can be the case, especially if the Premier is adamant that he is following the science,” said Bevan-Baker. “Can the Premier share with Islanders the information and modeling he is using to determine the appropriateness of his response to Omicron?”

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MICHELE BEATON: Statement on how to improve staffing concerns in long term care

As my colleague and Leader of the Official Opposition, Peter Bevan-Baker, pointed out this morning, we are facing a dangerous threat to our long-term care homes. This threat has the potential to harm Islanders who represent some of our most vulnerable population, senior citizens.

I agree with Peter that this government has done almost nothing to improve the situation. That is both intolerable and heartbreaking. In fact, there are some things that can be done right now – today – that can go a long way towards helping the situation.

First, the government can offer staff on understaffed units pay incentives. For example, a unit requires eight staff members to be fully staffed. If one person cannot make it in for the shift, the amount of wages for that missed person would be divided up by the staff that were available for the shift.

Secondly, the government can make sure childcare at or near Island hospitals and long-term care facilities is available and covered. This is especially important given schools are out and families are in need of help arranging care for children.

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PETER BEVAN-BAKER: Island Seniors are at risk due to challenges in Long Term Care

 The COVID pandemic has highlighted serious challenges in our long-term care systems. Prince Edward Island is not immune to these threats and it is critical that the King Conservatives do not fall into the trap of dismissing the threats as other Conservative governments across Canada have.

“I have been hearing from both family members and staff at long-term care facilities who are telling me that the level of care is falling to deeply concerning levels,” said Peter Bevan-Baker, Leader of the Official Opposition. “This is a direct result of a lack of investment in long-term care by this government.”

Family members have shared that there is often only one staff person available during a shift to provide care to all residents on a particular floor or wing of a long-term care facility.

“Recently a family member reached out to tell me that over the holidays staffing was so low in the long-term care home their loved one was in that residents were not taken out of bed for days at a time,” said Bevan-Baker. “This is unacceptable and is absolutely heartbreaking.”

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