‘Pick up the pace’: Doug Ford says some local medical officers falling behind on COVID-19 testing

Click to play video: 'Coronavirus outbreak: Ford criticizes some regional medical officers over testing' Coronavirus outbreak: Ford criticizes some regional medical officers over testing
WATCH ABOVE: Ontario Premier Doug Ford criticized some regional medical officers on Tuesday after the number of daily tests reported earlier in the day hit 10,654, a drop from previous days. Ford said some officers need to “start picking up your socks” and increase testing, given others are “knocking it out of the park.” – May 5, 2020

Premier Doug Ford says some of the province’s local medical officers are falling behind on coronavirus testing, as the number of tests completed in Ontario has fallen for a second consecutive day.

In April, the provincial government set a goal of reaching 16,000 tests per day by May 6 and beginning last week, that number was surpassed, reaching a high in Sunday’s report of more than 17,100 tests conducted.

That number has since dropped, falling to just over 14,500 tests in Monday’s report and nearly 10,700 in Tuesday’s.

READ MORE: 387 new coronavirus cases, 61 deaths in Ontario as total cases rise to 18,310

“I was on here the last few days saying they’re doing a great job, they were hitting 17,000 consistently and then all of a sudden you come in and you see the 10,000,” Ford said.

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“There’s certain medical officers in certain jurisdictions — now keep in mind we have 34 chief medical officers across the province — some just aren’t performing. I’m calling them out right now. You’ve got to pick up the pace.”

His comments come one day after he touted the province’s testing numbers, saying they passed an “important milestone.”

Ford wouldn’t name the medical officers, but said “they know who they are” and added that he would be having a call with them over the coming days.

“You have a whole bunch of them, half of them, really exceeding expectations and then you have some others that just aren’t even putting the work in as far as I can see,” he said.

READ MORE: How Ontario is planning to hit 16K daily COVID-19 tests by May 6

“So we need to hold these people accountable.”

During his daily press conference Tuesday afternoon, the province’s chief medical officer of health was asked about Ford’s comments.

Dr. David Williams said while he didn’t hear all of Ford’s remarks, he has recently been in touch with local health units that have fallen behind in testing.

He said some of them expressed concerns regarding the amount of supplies, including some units that were ready to conduct tests on the weekend but didn’t receive either adequate supply or the correct swabs.

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Williams said the recent drop in testing may also be attributed to weekend lag, but acknowledged there are “system issues” that need to be addressed.

Click to play video: 'Doug Ford blasts regional health officers for low coronavirus testing numbers' Doug Ford blasts regional health officers for low coronavirus testing numbers
Doug Ford blasts regional health officers for low coronavirus testing numbers – May 5, 2020

“We don’t need excuses, we need solutions,” he said.

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Joe Cressy, the chairman of Toronto’s board of health, said Ford’s comments were “inaccurate.”

“Testing is the responsibility of the province. Public Health Ontario was established in part for just this purpose,” Cressy said on Twitter.

“We are all in this together, and public health units will always step up help to save lives, but to blame them for [provincial] failures is wrong.”

The Ontario NDP also criticized the Ford government for the drop in tests in a statement Tuesday.

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Coronavirus outbreak: Ontario premier calls for national contact tracing plan – May 4, 2020

“Since March, the government has consistently missed its own testing targets,” it read.

NDP Leader Andrea Howrath also said, “The buck stops with Mr. Ford.”

“[Ford] determines how many public health units and labs we have, and how much funding they get, and he’s the one that spent the last year battling these organizations to make cuts to them,” she said.

The Ford government announced in 2019 that it planned to begin a merger of public health units in 2020 and 2021, saying it would strengthen the system. The government said the current system didn’t allow for consistent delivery.

Critics, however, said the amalgamation could jeopardize services and result in front-line layoffs when coupled with changes to public health cost-sharing.

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Ford said on Tuesday that following the pandemic, there will be a review of the province’s health-care reporting system.

“After this is over we need to review it and start looking at the Alberta model,” Ford said.

“It’s a lot easier to have one person in control than 34 people in control. I’ll tell you right now I’m disappointed in the chief medical officers in certain regions … Start picking up your socks and start doing testing.”

— With files from The Canadian Press

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