NewsAlert: LTC commission says nursing homes were neglected, sector needs reform

Ontario had no plan to address pandemic or protect residents in long-term care, final commission report says

Ontario's neglected long-term care sector needs sweeping reforms to protect its vulnerable residents, an independent commission has found, pointing the finger in a scathing report at governments past and present for thousands of COVID-19 deaths at the province's nursing homes.

"Many of the challenges in the long-term care industry over the decades - chronic funding, severe staff shortages, outdated infrastructure and poor oversight - have contributed to the unsafe consequences for Ontario's most vulnerable citizens during epidemics", the commission wrote.

The province's Long-Term Care Commission is expected to release their report today, and the OFL expects it to reach similar findings.

With almost 4,000 residents and 11 employees COVID-19 dead by the end of April, the commission said poor facility design and overcrowding have increased morbidity and mortality in nursing homes.

"I think collectively as a society I think we need to do some soul searching and understand why it took a pandemic to address the capacity issues and staffing issues in long-term care. ONA will hold this government responsible for its actions and will be unrelenting in our efforts to ensure homes are made safer".

The 322-page report says following the SARS epidemic of 2003, the province listened to reports calling for an overhaul to their pandemic preparedness plan.

Almost 4,000 long-term care residents and 11 staff have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic hit.

She said her ministry has doubled the number of personal support workers that will graduate this year, from 8,000 to 16,000, and reiterated past promises to increase the standard of care in all homes and improve infection prevention practices and inspections. Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott and Minister of Long Term Care Merrilee Fullerton must be held accountable. "However, others actually run the infrastructure - such as courts and hospitals - once built", the report said.

The military leaders who organized a deployment of long-term care homes also testified, describing the circumstances surrounding the mission and the poor reporting of conditions within the facilities.

Others said they would cry before and after shifts, vomit in lockers because of stress, and watch residents they loved die in great numbers. In one home, 50 per cent of staff were on a floor, forcing them to transfer between positive COVID-19 units and non-COVID-19 units.

But even after the commission was launched - and after it released two interim sets of recommendations - the virus continued to tear through the facilities.

The commission, headed by High Court Associate Chief Justice Frank Morocco, asked long-term care residents, staff and management.

In total, the commission heard from more than 700 people.

Dr. Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician and health justice activist in Toronto, said those numbers don't reflect "the vast distress and grief" many caregivers and families across the province are feeling. "But most of all, it can never be allowed to happen again".

"Sorrow for the survivors and families of the victims is not enough", she said in a statement. "We are fixing a broken system, and for our PSWs, I know that we will do everything possible to make sure they receive the support that they need and deserve". "A minimum of four hours of care is a step in the right direction, but the needs of Ontario's long-term care sector can not be ignored any longer". He warned, 'If we do not learn from SARS and we do not make the government fix the problems that remain... we will pay a awful price in the next pandemic.' Workers are now paying that price.