July 29, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Long-Term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, launched Ontario’s independent commission into COVID-19 and long-term care, which will highlight the cracks in Ontario’s long-term care system that were exacerbated by COVID-19 in order to protect residents and staff from future outbreaks.
Premier Ford and Dr. Fullerton were joined by Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, Christine Elliott.
In addition to this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford responded to questions from media and provided an update on the province’s ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier today, the government announced that the public health regions of Toronto and Peel will be permitted to move into stage three of reopening as of Friday, July 31 at 12:01 a.m.
Launch of Independent Commission into Long-Term Care
This afternoon, Premier Ford and Dr. Fullerton announced the details of Ontario’s independent commission into COVID-19 and long-term care.
The commission’s mandate includes investigating and providing a report of findings and recommendations respecting the following areas:
- How the pre-COVID-19 state of the long-term care system contributed to the COVID-19 virus spread within long-term care homes and how residents, staff, and family were impacted;
- The adequacy of measures taken by the province, long-term care homes, and other parties to prevent, isolate and contain the spread of COVID-19;
- The impact of existing physical infrastructure, staffing approaches, labour relations, clinical oversight and other features of the long-term care system on the spread of COVID-19.
The commission also has a mandate to investigate and report on any other matters it deems relevant to the spread of COVID-19 within the long-term care sector, as well as to consider areas of future government action to prevent the spread of disease in long-term care settings.
The commission will release a report, which will be made public, no later than April 30, 2021.
The three-member commission will be Chaired by Frank N. Marrocco, Associate Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Justice. Other members are Angela Coke, a former senior executive of the Ontario Public Service and Dr. Jack Kitts, former President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital.
Within its power to investigate, the independent commission has the power to compel persons to give or produce evidence, to issue summons and to hold public meetings. Dr. Fullerton emphasized that the government’s intention is for the process to be both transparent and independent.
While Premier Ford would not confirm whether recommendations made by the commission would be binding, he said the government would act on recommendations included in the final report.
In response to questions about for-profit long-term care homes, Dr. Fullerton said that the spread of COVID-19 within the sector was the product of many variables such as existing capacity and staffing issues versus a result of ownership. Regardless of ownership model, Dr. Fullerton added that long-term care residents and their families must be the primary focus of the sector moving forward.
Toronto and Peel Permitted to Move to Stage Three
Earlier today, the government announced that the public health regions of Toronto and Peel (which includes Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon) will be permitted to move into stage three of reopening as of Friday, July 31 at 12:01 a.m.
Windsor-Essex, which entered stage two later than other regions due to COVID-19 outbreaks within the agricultural sector, will remain in stage two until more data can be evaluated. The Ontario government will continue to work with other levels of government to respond to the needs of the region through on-farm testing, the deployment of mobile testing units and the adoption of new public health guidance for positive asymptomatic workers.
Premier Ford added that today’s COVID-19 case numbers, which confirmed only 76 new cases in Ontario, are “very encouraging” although he urged Ontarians not to become complacent.