Ontario Premier Doug Ford said he is mobilizing “every available resource” to stop the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes, which have been significantly impacted.
“We owe it to our most vulnerable,” Ford said during a press conference on Wednesday.
“We’re throwing everything we’ve got at our long-term care homes and mobilizing every available resource.”
The province is launching a COVID-19 Action Plan for Long-Term Care Homes to improve screening, testing, and surveillance with a focus on homes that have coronavirus outbreaks (there are 98 outbreaks in facilities across the province to date).
“This plan will fortify the iron ring around our long-term residents to keep them safe,” Ford said.
Specifically, the action plan will ensure that staff will have the tools they need to actively prevent and control the spread of the virus. More staff will be hired, and there will be 24 hour screenings for staff and residents, as well as enhanced cleaning measures. Long-term care homes that do not yet have outbreaks will be working on preventative plans.
In addition, priority distribution of PPE will be given to long-term care homes within 24 hours.
Ford also said that COVID-19 swab teams will be drawn from hospitals and public healthcare units to tackle the outbreaks occurring across the province.
“This will allow us to have more boots on the ground.”
Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care said over the next 48 hours, symptomatic residents and staff as well as asymptomatic contacts of confirmed cases will be tested. Asymptomatic residents in select long-term care homes will also be tested.
“This will help inform and make us better understand the speed the virus is spreading in homes,” Fullerton said.
Ford said that his “heart breaks” for those who have lost loved ones and are unable to see their family members.
“It’s happening in my own family,” the premier said, referring to his mother-in-law, who is currently in a long-term care facility.
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On Tuesday, Ford announced a new emergency order mandating that healthcare employees at long-term care homes work at only one facility in order to prevent in the spread of the virus.
The premier said that hospitals have not seen the surge of patients that was expected, therefore allowing resources from hospitals to be reallocated to senior care facilities.
Around $240 million will be reallocated to support long-term care homes that are experiencing increased outbreaks of the virus across Ontario.
The additional funding will increase staffing and cover the cost of adding hours for part-time staff. It will also go towards improved testing, new infection control measures, and providing more infection specialists for all homes.
On April 14, the state of emergency for the province was extended by 28 days.