"No Plan" To Protect Residents: LTC Report

“There was no plan,” LTC COVID-19 commission say Ontario was not prepared

AdvantAge Ontario, the Association representing Ontario's not-for-profit, municipal and charitable long-term care homes, welcomes today's final report from Ontario's Independent Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission.

Friday's report to the Ontario government said the province's long-term care sector needs sweeping reforms to protect its vulnerable residents.

More than 3,900 residents of long-term care homes with confirmed or probable cases of COVID-19 died between March 2020 and this month, along with at least 11 staff members.

The province failed to learn from the SARS epidemic in 2003 and should heed expert advice this time around, they said.

"The Auditor General issued a clarion call for change and the response from the Ford Government was to blame everyone else, take no responsibility, and change nothing", said Natalie Mehra, Executive Director of the Ontario Health Coalition.

"Seniors living in long-term care and other congregate care settings deserve to feel safe and well cared for, and their families need to trust that their loved ones are protected and receiving the best possible care", says Jane Sinclair, AdvantAge Ontario Board Chair.

"I think we all have the same fear", she said.

There were "problematic" enforcement practices by the Ministry of Long-term Care.

Almost 4,000 long-term care residents and 11 staff have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic hit.

"There's no question that residents and staff at long-term care homes and their families were disproportionally impacted by COVID-19", Fullerton said in the statement. The commission recommends that the Chief Medical Officer of Health "must be responsible for the province's pandemic stockpile, and that the government should provide the funding for the entirety of this, including for all long-term care homes". In one home, 50 per cent of staff were on a floor, forcing them to transfer between positive COVID-19 units and non-COVID-19 units.

But even after the commission was launched - and after it released two interim sets of recommendations - the virus continued to tear through the facilities.

The commission, led by Frank Marrocco, associate chief justice of the Superior Court, heard from long-term care residents, staff and management. Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Minister of Long Term Care Merrilee Fullerton must be held accountable. "But most of all, it can never be allowed to happen again".

Barrows gave the commission credit for not "pulling any punches" in the report - and ensuring people like her grandmother are not forgotten in death, as they seemed to be in their last months of life.

Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and health justice activist in Toronto, said those numbers don't reflect "the huge distress and grief" many caregivers and families across the province are feeling.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the commission paints a picture of years of neglect in the sector followed by a series of bad choices made by the Ford government.

Earlier Friday, Ford said he welcomed the commission's report, as hard as it would be to read.

"It is plain and obvious that Ontario must develop, implement, and sustain long-term solutions for taking care of its elderly and preparing for a future pandemic".

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