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Ontario government, NDP give conflicting accounts on handling of pandemic at long-term care homes

Political conflict over Ontario long-term care funding
WATCH: The provincial government and the opposition are expressing conflicting accounts on how Ontario has handled long-term care homes. Brittany Rosen has more on both sides of the argument.

The provincial government and the opposition are expressing conflicting accounts on how Ontario has handled long-term care homes during the pandemic.

The NDP says the province is not prioritizing the needs of seniors, while the government is calling that assertion inaccurate.

At Queen’s Park Wednesday, Oshawa NDP MPP Jennifer French said, “it was reported last week that as we careened into COVID-19, the minister of long-term care went to Treasury Board for support and funds and to address the problems they already knew about long-term care homes, but were refused.”

Read more: Coronavirus: Canadian military arrives at 5 Ontario long-term care homes struggling with COVID-19

French referenced a report from the Toronto Sun alleging Ontario’s long-term care minister, Merrilee Fullerton, was denied funding by the Treasury Board to stabilize staffing levels in facilities across the province in early February.

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Fullerton responded to French Wednesday, saying, “our government has not only demonstrated concern for long-term care, but it’s put money behind it.”

The opposition says if the allegations are true, the funding could have helped local homes like Orchard Villa, where the military was called in to fight a devastating outbreak that contributed to the deaths of 78 people.

“If the minister had the funding needed to make that difference, it would be at their discretion to put it where it needed to go,” French said.

“I have every reason to believe that a home like Orchard Villa, that it’s at the top of the risk pile and has been historically, should have been receiving that funding.”

Read more: Son of Pickering long-term care home resident alleges neglect

The Treasury Board denies funding was rejected, telling Global News in a statement, “the suggestion that treasury board denied funding to support our long-term care sector is categorically false and without merit.”

They went on to say the government allocated an additional $243 million in response to the pandemic.

June Morrison’s father passed away at Orchard Villa during the facility’s coronavirus outbreak. She says she’d like to see politicians work more collaboratively to come up with solutions, and fast.

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“I’m tired of hearing the finger-pointing. I’m fed up hearing about what happened in the last 10-15 years,” she said.

“That doesn’t solve the problem. Can we learn from the past and can we move forward and can we do something now?”

French continues to support Orchard Villa families and is pushing for a public inquiry into deaths at the facility. For the time being, Ontario’s ombudsman is investigating the province’s handling of the pandemic in long-term care homes.

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