On April 15, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced the launch of Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan for Long-Term Care Homes, which will see hospital-based teams deployed into homes fighting outbreaks, as well as increased testing and infection control measures.
Premier Ford was joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott, and Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton.
Last night the Ontario government also passed an emergency order to prevent workers in the long-term care sector from working in more than one facility at a time.
COVID-19 Action Plan for Long-Term Care Homes
Ontario Premier Doug Ford today announced the launch of Ontario’s COVID-19 Action Plan for Long-Term Care (LTC) Homes, which will ensure that all available resources are mobilized to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the LTC sector.
The Action Plan announced today includes three pillars which will build on the actions already taken by the Ontario government to protect workers and residents in LTC:
1. Increasing testing, screening and surveillance.
COVID-19 testing will be enhanced in all LTC homes. This includes testing all symptomatic LTC residents and staff, as well as asymptomatic contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases. Asymptomatic residents and staff will also be tested in select homes across the province to help inform the understanding of how COVID-19 spreads in LTC settings.
2. Managing outbreaks and spread of COVID-19.
Targeted plans will be developed for LTC homes managing outbreaks of COVID-19 and work with public health units is already underway to assess the level of risk for all LTC homes in order to prepare homes not currently facing outbreaks. Steps are also being taken to improve isolation capacity, particularly in older LTC homes, through measures such as moving patients to other facilities.
LTC homes will be supported with public health and infection control and prevention teams. Staff working in outbreak conditions will also be given additional training.
The government will continue the priority distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) to LTC homes within 24 hours and offer enhanced guidance on the use of PPE.
3. Growing the LTC workforce.
To ensure an integrated health system effort, staff will be redeployed from hospitals and home and community care to support the LTC workforce and respond to outbreaks in homes where support is needed.
The redeployment of teams from other areas of the health care system is in addition to ongoing intensive recruitment initiatives through Ontario’s Health Workforce Matching Portal. This portal is being used to match qualified employees to over 190 LTC homes that have posted requests for additional staff.
Measures outlined above will be initiated over the next 24 to 48 hours.
Yesterday, the government also issued an emergency order which prevents workers in the LTC sector from working in more than one setting at a time, including retirement homes and other health care settings. The order applies to all LTC employees, including registered nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers and kitchen and cleaning staff. The temporary order will remain in place for at least 14 days in order to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 in the LTC sector.
As a result of the emergency order issued yesterday LTC workers who must temporarily give up a job in another care setting are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence and will be protected from losing these jobs. The government is encouraging LTC employers to offer full-time hours to part-time employees during the COVID-19 pandemic to make up for lost wages. The Ontario government will also work with the federal government to address wages and compensation for LTC workers who are now required to limit their work to one home.