On May 28, 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton announced the extension of the mandate of the Incident Management System (IMS) Long-Term Care Table in order to continue to respond to the challenges posed by COVID-19 in the long-term care (LTC) sector.

Premier Ford and Dr. Fullerton were joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott.

Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media regarding inspections in the LTC sector and continued plans for economic reopening in Ontario.

Further Details

Extended Mandate of IMS Long-Term Care Table

This afternoon, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Long-Term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton announced the extension of the mandate of the IMS Long-Term Care Table. The extended mandate will enable the IMS table to continue to make rapid decisions, deploy resources, and provide clear direction and communication to Ontario’s LTC sector.

The IMS table, first established in April, is composed of health care professionals who make immediate decisions to deal with issues specific to LTC during the COVID-19 pandemic. The table meets daily to organize efforts across multiple providers and government, make rapid decisions, and support LTC homes in need. Homes identified for support may be struggling with issues such as controlling outbreaks, completing infection prevention and control assessments, ensuring appropriate staffing levels, accessing personal protective equipment, and completing the testing of all residents and staff.

During this afternoon’s announcement, Dr. Fullerton also outlined the successes of the IMS table in supporting LTC homes affected by COVID-19 outbreaks:

  • Since May 1, the number of low-risk (“green”) homes has increased from 356 to 547 (87.4% of all LTC homes) and the number of high-risk (“red”) homes has been reduced from 35 to 19 (a 54.3% improvement);
  • As of May 27, 37 hospitals have deployed teams into 59 “yellow” and 19 “red” homes;
  • Testing of residents and staff has been completed, with a second round of testing underway;
  • The number of COVID-19 positive tests in LTC homes has decreased from 12.5% to 7.5% and 164 outbreaks have been resolved.

Questions from Media – LTC Inspections and Continued Reopening of Ontario

Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media regarding inspections in the LTC sector and continued plans for economic reopening in Ontario.

When asked about accountability for Ontario Public Service employees who might have overseen ongoing problems in the province’s LTC sector, Premier Ford said that any instances of such oversight would be revealed through the independent commission on LTC and anyone involved would be held accountable.

Premier Ford was also asked about LTC home inspections performed by Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) inspectors during the pandemic and said that there were instances where OPSEU inspectors refused to enter LTC facilities, and instead performed inspections over the phone. OPSEU responded to the Premier’s press conference saying that it was government civil servants, not the union, who told inspectors not to enter long-term care homes hit hard by COVID-19.

When asked how standards of care should be regulated within the LTC sector going forward, Premier Ford said that more regulations are necessary in this sector, emphasizing the need to protect residents and workers. He was extremely critical of for-profit long-term care homes in his response.

Minister Elliott also had an opportunity to speak about the current levels of testing being done and the number of new cases in the province. She acknowledged that the number of new cases increased to 383 today, which may reflect the initial steps of reopening Ontario’s economy last week. Minister Elliott added that she and Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, review this data daily and are currently comfortable with the numbers, given that a slight spike was expected following Ontario’s move into stage one. Minister Elliott and Dr. Williams will review the numbers for at least another week before contemplating moving beyond stage one.

Premier Ford was also asked about whether he would reconsider a regional approach to reopening Ontario, as a result of the concentration of COVID-19 in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and select other regions. Premier Ford agreed that the realities are different across the province but said that he remains cautious about Ontarians leaving the GTA for rural areas. He continues to act on the advice of Dr. Williams.