WINDSOR, ONT. -- Windsor West NDP MPP Lisa Gretzky announced a new private member’s bill for essential caregivers at the Ontario legislature on Wednesday.

Gretzky says the ‘More Than A Visitor Act’ enshrines rights for people receiving care, support or services in congregate care settings, such as long-term care and group homes, to ensure consistent, continuous and safe access to their essential caregivers.

“For six months, Ontarians across the province have had their lives turned upside down due to the pandemic,” said Gretzky. “For residents in long-term care homes, group homes, and retirement homes, it has been particularly devastating. It has meant that they are confined to their homes or rooms nearly every day, with little to no quality of life.”

Gretzky adds that numerous reports have shown that the visitor policies in congregate care settings which keep out essential caregivers are causing devastating isolation, mental and physical decline, regressive behaviour, and depression.

She says the bill also sets out the framework for a Caregiver Strategy going forward, which will bring together residents, caregivers, workers and experts and advocacy groups with the goal of making policies related to the role of caregivers in Ontario.

The strategy will also include a critically important staffing strategy for all congregate care settings in order to properly meet the care needs of residents while addressing chronic understaffing .