Ontario launching independent commission into long-term care homes

May 19 2020, 9:14 am

The province is launching an independent commission to investigate Ontario’s long-term care homes, which have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Tuesday, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, the Minister of Long-Term Care, confirmed that the commission will begin in September and over the next several months the provincial government will be finalizing details including terms of reference, membership, leadership of the commission, and reporting timelines.

“Our government has been clear that we will review the long-term care system to get a better understanding of the impacts and responses to the COVID-19 outbreak,” Fullerton said in a statement.

“We have been clear the long-term care system in Ontario is broken. We must act quickly and decisively, and that is why an independent non-partisan commission is the best way to conduct a thorough and expedited review.”

The Minister of Long-Term Care noted that the commission will provide guidance on how to improve these facilities and protect residents and staff from any future outbreaks.

According to the Public Health Ontario Daily Epidemiologic Summary (iPHIS), there are 220 outbreaks in long-term care homes — there are 630 in the entire province.

As of May 19, there have been 1,115 resident deaths.

There are 4,235 coronavirus cases from long-term care homes with 1,456 staff contracting the virus. This means, around 18% of all coronavirus cases in Ontario come from long-term care homes — the province’s total is now 23,384 but 76.5% of the cases have been resolved

“Ontarians need and deserve answers, and let me assure you, they will get them,” Fullerton said.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association (OLTCA), which represents the majority of the province’s private, not-for-profit, charitable, and municipal long-term care homes, also supports the provincial government’s independent commission of the sector so it can address “longstanding and systemic issues highlighted by COVID-19.”

“But now is the time for action, and Ontario’s long-term care homes urgently need expedited capital redevelopment funding, interim investments for older homes to enable effective infection control, more supplies and rapid testing, continued human resources flexibility and increased support from homes’ medical directors and other primary care resources,” the association said in a release.

On Tuesday, the province entered Stage 1 of its framework to reopen the economy, allowing certain businesses and recreational activities to reopen.

OLTCA noted that as the economy opens up, there is an increased risk of community transmission, making long-term care a priority for personal protective equipment and testing.

For the association, long-term care homes are considered to be the frontlines of the pandemic and they want to ensure that the facilities are properly prepared for a potential second wave of the virus.