Ontario Premier Doug Ford became visibly emotional when talking about long-term care homes, calling the system broken and saying “it needs to be better” as over 100 homes face significant impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, Ford said they recognize “the system is broken” and finds the situation unacceptable, as long-term care homes have become the “frontlines of the COVID-9 pandemic.”
“We knew long-term care homes had been neglected for many many years,” Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care said. “We have used every tool that we have.”
“It is a moral imperative to improve our long-term care system and ensure that residents and staff are treated with respect and dignity.”
Earlier on Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau acknowledged the “tragedies” in long-term care facilities.
“This is unacceptable,” he said. “If you’re angry you have the right to feel this way. We are failing the generation that helped build this country. We must care for them properly.”
Ontario and Quebec have both requested assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces for their long-term care outbreaks, but Trudeau said that this is not a long-term solution — the Armed Forces will be focused on five priority homes in Ontario.
“In Canada, we shouldn’t have soldiers taking care of seniors.”
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According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care daily report, there have been 132 outbreaks reported in long-term care homes, an increase of seven from Monday’s report. And, they report 516 resident deaths.
However, the Public Health Ontario Daily Epidemiologic Summary (iPHIS) shows 135 outbreaks with 358 resident death, to date.
Ontario also announced it’s new COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People to better protect vulnerable populations during the pandemic.
This plan builds on the government’s previous actions to protect people living in high-risk settings, including homes serving those with developmental disabilities, shelters for survivors of gender-based violence and human trafficking, children’s residential settings, and those residential settings supporting vulnerable Indigenous individuals and families both on and off reserve.
The action plan will focus on enhanced screening and reduced exposure to prevent spread, by screening visitors, staff and residents on sites, as well as restricting non-essential visitors.
Masks will also be provided to staff working in congregate care settings and providing training on the use of personal protective equipment in the event of an outbreak.
“The plan we are announcing today will build on and support the critical work that is currently being carried out each and every day by our frontline heroes to care for our most vulnerable citizens,” said Ford in a statement.
“These people are most at risk during this pandemic and that’s why we are helping these organizations immediately ramp up screening and testing, deploy more protective masks and gloves, and put more boots on the ground in the fight against COVID-19.”
The plan will also work on infection control, by enhancing testing of symptomatic staff and clients to identify the need for isolation and additional infection control measures on-site.
And, planning to limit staff from working at more than one congregate care setting during an outbreak, specifically in developmental services, intervenor services, violence against women and anti-human trafficking settings.
There will also be measures to sustain staffing and managed staff shortages, by working with organizations to promote workforce stability and capacity in high-risk settings.