We need to learn from lessons of pandemic

By Sean Delaney

Humber River – Black Creek MPP Tom Rakocevic reflected on the year about to be put to bed, by promising to not stop working for a better future.

“I think we can be judged as a society by how we treat our most vulnerable,” Rakocevic said. “And right now, we’ve learned how this group is being let down by our society, by our government.”

Rakocevic, like others before him, said 2021 was really the year of the vaccine. It was the year it became readily available, and it was the year when representatives such as himself, fought for access, vaccine clinics, and more, to see their communities healthy and safe.

But for Rakocevic, the lessons learned in 2021 are going to drive his efforts into the future, as he said, outside of the admirable and unrelenting work of frontline workers, healthcare workers, advocates and more, he saw a number of spots where he couldn’t believe the work that needed to be done and wants to close those gaps for those doing the work ahead of him.

“This pandemic shed a light on a number of difficult things in our system,” he said. “People that are living on the margins, living difficult lives, this has to be a wake up call to governments to understand we need to provide the supports to people. We need to provide access to decent paying jobs, so members of the community can find a career, and gainful employment.”

In Long Term Care, Rakocevic said, he saw PSWs forced to work multiple centres at minimum wage compensation. And heard stories of neglect, mistreatment, and a general lack of care that shocked him.

“Long term care has been an absolute tragedy, with more than 4000 lives lost,” he said. “Even before the pandemic I spoke to PSWs, employees, family members and these issues were present previously. But during this pandemic, we had conditions so bad the military had to be called in. Hospitals had to take over some sites, and I continue to hear from families.”

He’s heard stories of families having to fight to get elders from their LTC beds into the hospital when they faced medical emergencies and is frustrated that they must engage in these fights.

“Coming out of this pandemic we have to respect our loved ones, invest in long term care, and create public, non-profit beds because that is where we see the best outcomes,” he said. “We really need to take the profit out of long term care. These are our loved ones, our seniors that have given everything to their families, and that have built up our city, our province, our country and in their moments of need and help, they are not living with dignity, and I think it’s irresponsible. We have to do better for them.”

Rakocevic has a campaign to improve long term care that he is going to continue to push forward in 2022, and has tabled a consumer protection bill as well, to address rising insurance rates.

“Fortunately, we’ve seen amazing stories of loving and giving, but then of course, we’ve seen those who have taken advantage of the pandemic, namely insurance companies,” he said. “We’re seeing raises in costs of car insurance, even during a pandemic when no one was driving, and accidents were down 80 percent. And now business insurances, companies are being gouged by insurance companies. Their doors were closed and they’re seeing double and triple insurance rates.

“The hard lessons learned through this pandemic, we have to do everything we can to improve the system for all of us.”

Rakocevic expressed pride in how the community and the people in Emery have worked so hard to look after each other and show their love in 2021.

“I’ve seen with my own eyes the love and respect our community gives to each other, and it’s been very heartwarming,” he said. “I’ll never forget the love I saw that people have given one another to help through these difficult times. I am so proud to live in a community where so much love was flowing in difficult times.

“I wish Happy Holidays to everyone.”