December 17, 2020, Premier Doug Ford and Minister of Long-Term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, released a long-term care staffing plan for the province, entitled A Better Place to Live, A Better Place to Work. The plan seeks to enhance recruitment, retention, and training of long-term care staff in order to achieve the government’s goal of four hours of daily direct care for seniors in long-term care by 2025.

Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Dr. Fullerton responded to questions from media.

Additional Announcements

This afternoon, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. David Williams, and Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Barbara Yaffe, provided an update on COVID-19 trends in Ontario.

Earlier today, the province announced an investment of $147 million to immediately expand access to mental health and addictions services, and address capacity issues in response to COVID-19. This funding builds on the $176 million announced earlier this year as part of Roadmap to Wellness.

Yesterday afternoon, the Ministry of Long-Term Care approved a Voluntary Management Contract allowing Hamilton Health Sciences to provide enhanced support to Grace Villa Nursing Home in Hamilton. The arrangement is intended to address current COVID-19 spread at the facility and will remain in effect for 90 days. The contract may also be extended, if necessary.

Further Details

A Better Place to Live, A Better Place to Work: Ontario’s Long-Term Care Staffing Plan

This afternoon, Premier Ford and Dr. Fullerton announced a long-term care staffing plan for Ontario, which sets out to achieve the government’s 2020 Budget commitment to increase daily direct care to an average of four hours a day per resident, by 2025.

The plan includes six pillars to improve care for seniors by recruiting, retaining, and training long-term care staff:

  • Investing up to $1.9 billion a year by 2024-25 to create more than 27,000 new positions, including personal support workers (PSWs), registered nurses (RNs), and registered practical nurses (RPNs), in order to meet the direct care commitment. There will also be a 20 per cent increase in direct care provided by other health care professionals, including physiotherapists and social workers.
  • Accelerating and expanding education and training in order to prepare to train tens of thousands of new staff.
  • Supporting continued professional development to improve retention of long-term care staff.
  • Improving working conditions for staff, including increasing full-time employment and promoting innovative approaches to work and technology.
  • Improving oversight, guidance and medical outcomes in long-term care by driving effective and accountable leadership in homes.
  • Measuring progress against performance indicators.

The government acknowledged that fixing the challenges in this sector will require partnerships with professional associations, labour unions, regulatory bodies, long-term care homes, and education and training providers. The province will also engage with residents and families for their perspectives on what quality care means, in order to develop a quality framework and performance measures.

Questions from Media

Stricter COVID-19 Holiday Measures

Premier Ford was asked about the Ontario Hospital Association’s (OHA) recommendation that the government “implement and robustly enforce a four-week lockdown in every public health unit with an infection rate of 40/100,000” (all public health units currently at the Red-Control level). In response, Premier Ford said that he appreciated the input of, and would continue consulting with, the OHA and hospital CEOs. He elaborated that there are many elements requiring consideration when deciding whether to implement a broader lockdown, and that he does not want to “rush into a snap decision.”

When pressed for specifics on which additional public health measures were being considered, Premier Ford said that all options remain on the table. He reassured small business owners that the government will provide additional assistance if stricter measures pertaining to businesses are implemented.

When asked whether he would consider implementing a curfew to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Ontario, Premier Ford responded that he didn’t believe a curfew is currently necessary.

Ontario COVID-19 Update

Later this afternoon, Dr. Williams and Dr. Yaffe provided an update on COVID-19 trends in Ontario.

Today, Ontario reported a record high of 2,432 new cases of COVID-19. 57 per cent of these cases were located within the regions of Toronto, Peel, and York, which is down significantly from the much higher concentration of cases in lockdown regions several weeks ago. This indicates that COVID-19 is increasingly spreading across a broader portion of the province.

Dr. Williams called the latest trends “concerning” and added that Ontario is moving in the wrong direction from the “precarious” situation described at last week’s modelling update. Dr. Williams has provided recommendations to the Cabinet, and decisions on whether to move public health units to stricter levels of the province’s COVID-19 response framework will be made tomorrow. He also mentioned the possibility of implementing additional public health measures to tighten lockdowns in Toronto and Peel, which continue to see high case numbers despite spending more than three weeks in lockdown.

Additional Funding for Mental Health and Addictions Services

Earlier today, the province announced an investment of $147 million to immediately expand access to mental health and addictions services. This investment acknowledges the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the mental health of Ontarians and is intended to address the anticipated spike in demand for mental health and addictions services over this year’s holiday season.

Today’s investment will be broken down as follows:

  • Over $62.2 million in community-based mental health and addictions services and inter-professional primary care teams. This includes $30 million in targeted funding for child and youth mental health services.
  • $8 million in targeted, culturally safe services of Indigenous people, including land-based programming and supports for children and youth.
  • Over $10 million to help specific vulnerable populations, such as those in residential settings with a high risk of COVID-19 outbreaks, those at risk of homelessness and social isolation, and justice-involved individuals.
  • Over $15.4 million to expand virtual mental health and addictions supports to improve access to these resources province-wide.
  • Over $51.5 million will go towards a cross-sectoral approach to support vulnerable populations, including but not limited to post-secondary students, First Nations communities, Métis, Inuit, and urban Indigenous peoples, Black youth, children and youth in care, LGBTQ youth, people with developmental disabilities, and victims of gender-based violence.

The funding announced today builds on $176 million announced earlier this year as part of Roadmap to Wellness.