Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province asked the federal government to provide reinforcements from the Canadian Armed Forces to protect long-term care homes which are seeing a continuous rise of COVID-19 outbreaks.
On Wednesday, Ford said he’s been working closely with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland to help protect the most vulnerable during the pandemic.
The Canadian Armed Forces and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) will be deployed to five priority long-term care homes in the province, with a specific focus on Toronto.
“Their support will give staffing relief so staff can focus on care of residents,” Ford said. “The Canadian Forces and PHAC members will support day-to-day operations.”
“Frontline heroes are working around the clock. They need rest and they need support.”
The premier mentioned across the province various health networks have been directing their efforts for long-term care homes.
Scarborough Health Network has supported 17 facilities in their region providing medical experts and virtual programs to support staff on site.
Another is Lakeridge Health, which has deployed personalized plans for six long-term care homes, with a goal to have 10 plan completed by the end of the week.
Since the Ontario government implemented the COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes, 20 long-term care homes, which were previously experiencing outbreaks, are now outbreak-free.
As of Wednesday, there are 127 outbreaks in homes across the province with 295 reported deaths.
There has also been an increasing of testing on both symptomatic and asymptomatic staff and residents. To date, approximately 11,600 tests have been completed amongst residents in long-term care.
In addition to conducting additional testing of asymptomatic residents and staff outside of the testing guidance at 21 long-term care homes, to help understand the spread of the virus.
According to Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, the 24/7 Long-Term Care COVID-19 Response Team, which has already helped more than 30 homes by putting in place infection control protocols, resolving staffing issues, and fulfilling personal protective equipment needs.
Fullerton also mentioned the launch of 31 Infection Prevention and Control interventions, which are currently in progress, with six assessments already completed.
“Within 48 hours of launching our Action Plan, we sent in reinforcements to further protect our most vulnerable seniors and those who care for them in our long-term care homes,” Ford said.
“Today, we are making progress against this ruthless disease, but I want to emphasize that every option is on the table to get our long-term care homes what they need to stop the spread. That is why we intend to make a formal request for assistance from the federal government.”
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On Tuesday, Ford announced that the province is investing $11 million to help deliver meals and medicines to seniors and individuals with disabilities, as well as doubling the Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payments for low-income seniors facing continued hardship during the pandemic.
Working with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) the province launched a new Ontario Community Support Program, which will expand existing Meals on Wheels services to reach low-income seniors and people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions across Ontario.
In addition, this week the province will also be issuing the first doubled GAINS payments.
Ford said individuals will receive up to $166 per month and couples will receive up to $332 per month.
These doubled payments will continue for six months and provide an additional $75 million to 194,000 vulnerable seniors who may need more help to cover essential expenses during the pandemic.