Ontario’s New Democratic Party says Ontario’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care homes across the province has been a failure, and has cost residents their lives.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says in February, just one month before the COVID-19 crisis began, Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton requested additional resources to hire more staff to address the staffing ‘crisis’ of personal support workers in Ontario.

Horwath says the request was rejected by Ontario’s Treasury Board, and due to the lack of staff and resources at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March, over 1,700 long-term care home residents have passed away from the virus to date.

“In February, the World Health Organization was warning the world about COVID-19 outbreaks. Our Long-Term Care minister was acknowledging the ‘severe shortage of personal support workers’ that same month. Too many people have died. People deserve answers,” said Horwath, during question period at Queen’s Park.

“It’s clear that the Ministry knew in February that Ontario’s broken long-term care system would not be able to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic. The horrifying stories of neglect, overworked staff and rotten food were being sent to the minister long before COVID-19 came into Ontario,” added Horwath.

As of July 9, over 5,500 of Ontario’s total 36,464 cases of COVID-19 have been found in long-term care homes, representing 15 per cent of the provincial total.

There have been 2,710 deaths from the coronavirus in Ontario, and roughly 63 per cent of those who have lost their lives, 1,724 residents, were living in long-term care home facilities.

Healthcare workers who are working in long-term care homes have also been hit hard by the virus. There are over 2,300 COVID-19 cases in long-term care home staff in Ontario, and 7 frontline staff have passed away from the illness.

The Ministry of Long-Term Care reports that 292 LTC homes have had an outbreak which is now resolved, and 22 facilities are still coping with an outbreak.

Presumptive COVID-19 testing is continuing in long-term care homes across the province to try to find any COVID-19 cases before they turn into an outbreak. At this point, no cases have been found in regional long-term care homes, says the Northwestern Health Unit.

Minister of Health and Deputy Premier, Christine Elliott, noted that a staffing study will be released soon, which will help to guide the province to address the staffing crisis in long-term care homes.

“When we consider the neglect of the last 15 years under the previous government of long-term care, it was very clear that capacity, staffing and integration of services were issues. This has been an issue during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that staffing was an issue. We acknowledge that.”

Premier Doug Ford added that Ontario immediately injected $243 million into long-term care, and the province is planning to further invest in the sector. He also notes that Ontario was able to secure stable supplies of personal protective supply and hand sanitizer quickly, and deployed the Canadian Military to help reduce cases in long-term care homes.

For more information:
No COVID-19 in local long-term care homes so far, NWHU
Inquiry launched into long-term care