Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the province is investigating after reports from military members helping in long-term care homes show “heartbreaking and horrific” concerns.
On Tuesday, the Ontario government outlined key findings from the Canadian Armed Forces report on the five long-term care homes at which the military has been assisting.
The report details “serious concerns” around staffing, infection prevention and control, resident safety, food preparation, and janitorial services.
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The report also indicates that these five homes are beginning to stabilize with the support of the armed forces.
“After being devastated by serious COVID-19 outbreaks, these five homes had reached a crisis situation which is why we called the military for help,” Ford said.
He said that until Monday morning the government didn’t know the full extent of what the residents were dealing with.
“The reports are heartbreaking and horrific. It is shocking that this can happen in Canada,” said the premier.
Ford added that reading the reports were “gut wrenching” and the “hardest thing I’ve done as premier.”
“Not being cleaned, these are standard operating procedures,” the premier said, becoming visibly emotional.
“I know when you feed someone you lift them up and feed them,” he added in response to reports of forceful feeding of the residents.
“It’s so disturbing, it was hard to get through, it was the most heart wrenching report I’ve ever read in my life.”
He is calling on the Canadian Armed Forces to extend their mission for another 30 days and thanked the military members for bringing “these serious issues to light.”
“We called in the military and got a clear report of a system that has been broken for decades. We’re going to fix it and do whatever it takes,” Ford said.
Ford said there will be accountability, as the province investigates the accusations. Ford added that the results will be shared with police “to look into any possible criminal charges.”
But the premier emphasized that he felt reading the reports does not compare to the hardship the residents and families had to endure.
On April 22, the Ontario government formally requested assistance from the federal government in the form of the Canadian Armed Forces to support five long-term care homes that were in crisis.
These homes were amongst the hardest hit in Ontario with outbreaks and had significant challenges that could not be rectified through various efforts. Those challenges included: staffing, infection prevention and control, resident safety, food preparation and janitorial services.
On May 10, the Canadian Armed Forces reported 15 out of 20 categories being in high-risk.
And, as of May 25, based on the Canadian Armed Forces assessment, 13 of these 15 categories were no longer considered high-risk.
The government has already begun an active investigation based on the Canadian Armed Forces report, the province says.
To date, one death has been referred to the Office of the Chief Coroner for investigation. In addition to continued regular inspections, the Ministry of Long-Term Care Inspections Branch will “immediately investigate” specific critical incidents referred to in the report.
In addition, the government recently announced it will be launching an independent commission into Ontario’s long-term care system beginning in September. The government also continues to work with hospital partners to assist long-term care homes across the province with clinical, infection prevention and control, and other supports.
Earlier on Tuesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that he was aware of the reports by the military members and was “sad, shocked, disappointed and angry” by what had been reported.
“It is deeply disturbing,” Trudeau said.
“I believe that we are talking about a situation that clearly is a reality associated with COVID-19, but has also existed for some time now.”
Trudeau said that the observations were “extremely troubling” in several of the Ontario facilities that the Canadian military have been serving in.
“We need to do a better job caring for the people who built this country,” the prime minister said.
He added that he will continue to assist Ford during this time.