Government details actions in response to military’s reports
The Ontario government expressed its gratitude to members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who temporarily supported high-priority long-term care homes during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak as their work concluded on Friday.
Under Operation LASER, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed teams consisting of nurses, medical technicians and additional personnel who worked in the province’s long-term care homes since April, providing staffing support and helping with infection prevention and control and other duties, such as cleaning and food preparation.
“We owe our brave men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the military families who support them, a debt of gratitude for their service to our province during this crisis,” said Premier Doug Ford. “From providing relief to our frontline workers, to taking care of our loved ones in long-term care homes, they have been there for their fellow Canadians when we needed them most. We hope to find ways in the near future to properly show our thanks for their contributions and for the contributions of all Ontarians who have gone above and beyond these past few months.”
The CAF teams supported the following homes: Orchard Villa, Holland Christian Homes Grace Manor, Altamont Care Community, Eatonville Care Centre, Hawthorne Place Care Centre, Downsview Long Term Care, and Woodbridge Vista Care Community.
The Ontario government later received reports from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) which details medical, professional and technical issues present in the long-term care facilities, and Ford described the said reports as “heart-breaking” and “horrific”.
“In this time of exceptional need, we are grateful for the support we received from the Canadian Armed Forces teams in our long-term care homes,” said Merrilee Fullerton, minister of long-term care. “Their experience and expertise in emergency situations have been crucial in fighting this virus and helping to protect our residents and staff in long-term care homes.”
The Ontario government also detailed the steps it has taken to address the issues noted in the reports. These include:
- Each home identified at that time as high-risk has been inspected or has an inspection underway
- Inspections at all the Canadian Armed Forces-supported homes have been completed and have since been expanded with inspectors remaining onsite
- Temporary management has been appointed at Altamont Care Community, Camilla Care Community, Orchard Villa, Extendicare Guildwood, River Glen Haven, Downsview Long Term Care, Woodbridge Vista Care Community, Forest Heights and Hawthorne Place Care Centre
- Each home identified as high-risk has been required to submit a plan to the ministry that details how they are improving care standards.
The government also said it has taken additional measures to support staff and residents in long-term care homes, including providing emergency funding, regulatory flexibility, staffing support, expanded testing, direction and guidance on outbreak management, infection prevention and assistance provided by public hospitals to homes in outbreak.
These actions have helped improve the condition in long-term care homes, said the government, noting the following achievements:
- The number of long-term care homes experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak has decreased from 150 homes (May 25) to 44 (as of July 2), out of a total of 626 homes. This means that more than 90 per cent of homes (582) have no resident cases
- The number of homes identified as high-risk has decreased from 23 (May 27) to five (as of June 30)
- The number of active resident cases has decreased from 1,855 (May 25) to 167 and the volume of active staff cases has decreased from 1,335 (May 25) to 287 (as of July 2)
- The number of homes identified as having critical staffing shortages has decreased from 20 (May 25) to zero (as of July 2)
- The number of homes identified as having critical PPE shortages has decreased from four (May 25) to zero (as of July 2)
The government recently announced the launch of an independent, non-partisan commission into Ontario's long-term care system beginning in July 2020. Details of the commission are now being finalized, including the terms of reference, membership, leadership of the commission and reporting timelines, said the government.
In June, the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) released a report that compiled 35 reports about the troubles in the province’s long-term care system, and the recommendations that different groups have made since 1999.
“We do not need another commission or inquiry to unearth the crisis in long-term care. You can see from this summary the myriad of recommendations that have not seen action,” said RNAO. “The results of studies and committees were presented, promises were made, and this document demonstrates that inquiries, inquests and reports have made recommendations that have been forgotten, or deliberately not acted upon.”
Previously, the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) recommended the provincial government to return long-term and home care to the public sector as a publicly funded and integrated system.