SUDBURY -- With outbreaks at facilities across the country, there is growing concern about the COVID-19 virus and its impact on long-term care homes.

There are seven long-term care facilities in Greater Sudbury and each one has a family council that advocates for the residents.

Family councils have been raising concerns about the shortage of personal support workers in these homes for over three years now and made it a provincial election issue.

"Now, we understand with COVID-19 in long-term care homes, that the shortage of PSWs is a crisis. As PSWs get sick from COVID-19, there is nobody else to replace them and we have seen deaths in long-term care homes that are very tragic in some places in Ontario," said Terry Martyn, the family council co-chair of Pioneer Manor in Sudbury.

Nancy Johnson is a retired occupational health and safety specialist for the Ontario Nurses Association and sits on the NorthEast Family Council Network.

"Right now, it just underscores the issues that we raised: that there are not safe staffing levels, not safe for patients and residents, and not safe for staff for sure," said Johnson.

Johnson was also part of the Ontario pandemic planning steering committee from 2004-2016. She is currently very active on the NorthEast Family Council Network.

"The missing link in this response right now, a lot of us believe, is the proper occupational health and safety equipment, training, drilling, all the precautionary principals. It's missing and we need it now," said Johnson.

Martyn says Pioneer Manor is the largest long-term care facility in northern Ontario and has been very open and accountable about what it's doing during the pandemic.

"They are keeping an eye on residents, very carefully; they are taking their temperatures twice a day. They are taking temperatures of staff coming in, staff leaving," said Martyn.

Members of local family councils say they plan to stay vocal about ensuring long-term care staff and residents have the proper protective equipment.