May 3rd, 2021

FACT CHECK: Will Dr. Williams role be reviewed following the LTC Commission report?

QUEEN’S PARK — After a devastating report issued by Ontario’s Long-Term Care Commission, Ontarians deserve to know if Dr. Williams’ role will be reviewed by anyone in the Ford Government.

“Will anyone in the Ontario government read the report’s damaging assessments of Dr. Williams’ work as Chief Medical Officer of Health, and review what he didn’t do during the pandemic to try to save lives in long-term care?” said NDP Deputy Leader Sara Singh.

The report found:

“Ontario could have been more proactive in the early months of 2020 to address potential risks for elderly populations. Notably, the Chief Medical Officer of Health failed to issue directives to ensure a consistent response to COVID-19 in long-term care homes.” (page 141)

“Notwithstanding the recommendation from Justice Campbell’s SARS Commission Final Report that the Chief Medical Officer of Health lead medical decision-making, it was not always clear who was in charge on this front. Dr. Williams, the CMOH, issued directives only after consultation with the Deputy Minister of Health and the Command Table. The result was delayed action when compared to a situation in which the CMOH holds a true leadership role, using discretion as required to issue orders.” (page 147)

“Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, who was responsible for the stockpile, told the Commission he was surprised to discover that a great deal of personal protection equipment is made in China. Dr. Williams ‘assumed that our companies that supplied us made it onshore.’ It was not until the second or third week of February that he identified this ‘as a big problem.’ As the person responsible for the stockpile, the Chief Medical Officer of Health should have known this basic fact…. Even a modest amount of pandemic preparedness would have revealed this weakness.” (page 154)

Dr. Williams advised the Commission that he thought confidentiality restrictions constrained him since he gave this advice to Cabinet. Dr. Williams had the authority to make the advice public. As the chief health officer to the province, his primary responsibility is the health of Ontarians.” (pg 183)

“The Australian government’s Health Protection Principal Committee released guidance on January 30 [2020], citing international evidence that suggested asymptomatic transmission… Dr. Williams told the Commission that ‘the evidence wasn’t there for that.’ He did not act as if asymptomatic spread might be occurring and did not issue directives on that basis. He stated that the evidence was not clear until the summer.” (page 18)