September 29, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Long-Term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, announced preparedness measures to protect Ontario’s long-term care sector during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s announcement includes a $540 million investment, and is part of the province’s fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19.
The government also announced changes to its visitor policy for long-term care homes in areas of highest community spread.
Premier Ford and Dr. Fullerton were joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott, and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams. Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford, Minister Elliot, and Dr. Williams responded to questions from media regarding Ontario’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Keeping Ontarians Safe – Protecting Vulnerable Seniors in Long-Term Care
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Dr. Fullerton announced an investment of $540 million in Ontario’s long-term care sector, in order to protect residents, caregivers, and staff from future surges of COVID-19.
The breakdown of today’s investment is as follows:
- $405 million to help homes with operating pressures related to COVID-19, including infection prevention and containment measures, staffing supports, and purchasing additional supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- $61.4 million for minor capital repairs and renovations in homes to improve infection prevention and control, including minor upgrades to support physical distancing, plumbing or water supply cleaning, updating HVAC systems, or repairing or replacing furniture and equipment that cannot be fully cleaned.
- $40 million to support homes that have been impacted by the changes in occupancy numbers due to COVID-19. As the sector has been directed to stop admissions of third and fourth residents to larger rooms, a key source of income for each operator will be impacted. This funding will help stabilize the homes through the transition to lower occupancy rooms.
- $30 million to allow long-term care homes to hire more infection prevention and control staffing, including $20 million for additional personnel and $10 million to fund training for new and existing staff.
- $2.8 million to extend the High Wage Transition Fund to ensure that gaps in long-term care staffing can continue to be addressed.
In addition, all long-term care homes will be provided with access to up to eight weeks of supply of PPE so that they are prepared in case of outbreaks. This supply will be available starting the week of October 5th, 2020.
The government is also leveraging the skills of community paramedics and municipal partners to help people on the waitlist for long-term care stay in their own homes longer.
Changes to Visitor Policy for Long-Term Care Homes
The government also announced today that it will be implementing changes to the visitor policy for long-term care homes in areas of highest community spread.
As of Monday, October 5th, visitors to long-term care homes in hotspot regions, including Toronto, Peel, and Ottawa, will be restricted to staff, essential visitors, and essential caregivers only.
According to Dr. Fullerton, an essential visitor is someone who is visiting a loved one prior to end of life, or for a similar essential reason.
An essential caregiver is someone who is identified by a resident or their substitute decision-maker, to provide assistance to the resident. Each resident may have up to two essential caregivers, which may include family or friends. Essential caregivers must continue to follow public health measures surrounding long-term care visits, including having a negative COVID-19 test within two weeks of a visit, passing active screening at the home, wearing a mask and other PPE, and practicing hand hygiene.
Questions from Media – Response to COVID-19
Support for Personal Support Workers (PSWs)
In response to questions about measures to support PSWs in Ontario, Premier Ford confirmed that an announcement would be made in the coming days.
Public Health Restrictions in Hotspots
When asked about comments made by Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, to avoid meeting with anyone outside of one’s immediate household, Dr. Williams admitted that the concept of social bubbles has become less effective due to casual attitudes and a loss of discipline towards the pandemic throughout the summer. He added that Ontario’s Public Health Measures Table is looking at whether it is necessary to reduce the size of social bubbles as a result of the growth in case numbers. Dr. Williams suggested that the focus of future measures is likely to be on hotspots for the virus, rather than a “broad sweep” across the province.