On May 26, 2020, Ontario Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton reacted to the key findings from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) report on the five long-term care homes at which the military has been assisting. The government has begun an investigation based on the findings of this report and is calling on the federal government and the Canadian Armed Forces to extend their current mission in Ontario’s hardest-hit long-term care homes for an additional 30 days.
Premier Ford and Dr. Fullerton were joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott and Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones.
Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford, Dr. Fullerton and Minister Elliott responded to questions from media.
CAF Report on Conditions at Five Ontario Long-Term Care Homes
This afternoon, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Long-Term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, reacted to the key findings from the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) report on the five Ontario long-term care (LTC) homes at which the military has been assisting. The CAF report was made public today and, according to Premier Ford provides a “horrific” and “gut-wrenching” account of conditions in the five Ontario LTC homes receiving military assistance.
The CAF report on the LTC homes raised a number of concerns around infection prevention, safety, staffing and level of care, which fall into the following categories:
- Non-adherence or non-existence of policies;
- Inadequate resources, including trained staff and medical supplies;
- Deficiencies in care home infrastructure;
- Concerns about standards of care.
In response to this report, Premier Ford and Minister Fullerton reiterated that the government’s number one priority is protecting LTC residents. Premier Ford added that there will be accountability and justice for the residents and their loved ones who experienced the conditions outlined in the CAF report.
Premier Ford announced that the government has already begun an active investigation based on the CAF report. To date, one death has been referred to the Office of the Chief Coroner for investigation. The results of this investigation will be shared with police to determine whether criminal charges are necessary. In addition, the Ministry of Long-Term Care Inspections Branch will immediately investigate specific critical incidents referred to in the report.
Premier Ford added that, thanks to the help of the CAF, the conditions in the five Ontario LTC homes hardest-hit by COVID-19 are beginning to stabilize. The Ontario government is calling on the federal government and the CAF to extend their current mission by at least 30 days in order to ensure continued improvement in these homes.
Premier Ford was visibly emotional during this afternoon’s press conference and said that the tragedy exposed by COVID-19 in Ontario’s LTC homes must serve as a wake up call to the entire country. He ensured that Ontario will do whatever it takes to fix the LTC system and called on the federal government for financial support moving forward.
The Ontario government first formally requested assistance from the CAF to support five LTC homes that were in crisis on April 22nd, 2020. The homes which received military assistance were among the hardest hit in Ontario with COVID-19 outbreaks and had significant challenges related to staffing, infection prevention and control, resident safety, food preparation and janitorial services.
The Ontario government recently announced that it will launch an independent commission into Ontario’s LTC system beginning in September. The government also continues to work with hospital partners to assist LTC homes across the provincial with clinical, infection prevention and control, and other supports.
Questions from Media – Long-Term Care
Premier Ford was asked how he would ensure that conditions identified in the CAF report are not permitted in any Ontario LTC home, not only the five included in the report. In response, Premier Ford acknowledged that the findings of the CAF report are likely to be indicative of broader issues. He committed to putting corrective action measures in place immediately and said that no expense would be spared in fixing the province’s LTC system.
Premier Ford also admitted that it would be unfair to paint all 626 LTC homes in Ontario with the same brush, saying that the vast majority of these homes have not suffered severe COVID-19 outbreaks. In order to determine how widespread the issues in Ontario’s LTC system are Premier Ford said the government would “need to do a deep dive into all homes.” The resourcing required to perform this type of investigation is why federal support has been requested. Premier Ford added that he would like to see national standard operation procedures for LTC.
In response to questions about whether the province would now hold a full public inquiry into LTC, Premier Ford said that he would not rule out this possibility after reading the report. He was clear that the province would do whatever it takes to solve the issues in the LTC system, including integrating LTC within the public health system.
When asked whether he would consider making the LTC system in Ontario entirely publicly-run, Premier Ford said that this decision would be made once the government has more details. He conceded that Ontario would not be able to financially sustain a public LTC system on its own, and that this approach would be more sustainable with federal support.
Questions from Media – COVID-19 Case Information
Minister Elliott was asked why the Ontario government has not released COVID-19 case information by postal code. She responded that Public Health Ontario is aware of the hotspots and is actively working on testing and contact tracing in these areas. Minister Elliott added that publicly releasing case information by postal code could be stigmatizing to certain hard-hit areas and could cause difficulties for businesses trying to reopen. The government is balancing the need for public awareness with the demoralizing effect that releasing this type of data could have on a particular area, its residents, and its businesses.