Ontario’s long-term care minister says the government is taking action to address problems highlighted in a report outlining the province’s neglect of nursing homes in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Merrilee Fullerton said the deaths of residents and staff in long-term care homes must not be in vain at a press conference on Monday. However, Fullerton largely blamed the issues plaguing the homes on previous provincial governments.
“The report makes it clear that the lessons learned from SARS were forgotten or were not implemented in the long-term care sector,” she said. “The report also makes it clear that the long-standing issues neglected by successive governments contributed to the spread of COVID–19.”
Fullerton said the government is moving to address a severe staffing shortage, improve quality of care for residents and build new beds. Fullerton said more changes are coming which will improve residents’ “quality of life” and their “emotional wellbeing.”
The Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission called for an overhaul of the sector in its final report, delivered to the government Friday night.
The 322-page report said the long-term care sector was not properly prepared for a pandemic, which was then made worse by the Ontario government’s “slow response” when COVID-19 first hit the province.
“Many of the challenges that had festered in the long-term care sector for decades — chronic underfunding, severe staffing shortages, outdated infrastructure and poor oversight — contributed to deadly consequences for Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens during the pandemic,” the commissioners wrote.
“Now is the time to revisit the delivery model for long-term care and adopt a better way to provide care for Ontario’s seniors,” the report said.
A total of 3,760 long-term care residents and 11 staff have died of COVID-19 since the pandemic hit.
The minister abruptly ended her press conference by walking out while people were still in the queue both on the phone and in-person with questions.
— With files from Jessica Patton