April 16th, 2020

Ford must close huge gaps he opened in care home protections

Province needs a plan to manage residential care homes in dire situations

QUEEN’S PARK — After weeks of COVID-19 sweeping through vulnerable group living facilities, the Ford government is choosing to build dangerous gaps into its new protective orders, leaving seniors and adults with disabilities at greater risk. Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition New Democrats, wants those problems fixed today — alongside a plan to take over management of facilities where residents aren’t protected.

  • Retirement homes, supportive housing and assisted living residences — including homes like Participation House — are excluded
  • Temp agency staff, who frequently work in long-term care homes, are exempt from a new rule banning workers from working in multiple homes
  • The rules don’t come into effect for a full week, despite the wildfire of infections potentially at a peak this week

“Ford is leaving dangerous loopholes big enough for COVID-19 fires to sweep through,” said Horwath. “Every senior in care and every adult living with a disability is a person who matters, and they deserve better. It should never have come to this.

Horwath said Ontario should follow British Columbia’s lead in developing criteria for when Public Health will take over management of individual long-term care homes and other group housing for vulnerable people.

“The government has done too little, far too late to protect seniors in care and adults with disabilities in group living situations. It’s beyond time for the government to step up with a plan to take direct management of homes where residents aren’t protected enough.”

Horwath has been calling for an overhaul of long-term care in Ontario for years, and now says once the COVID-19 crisis has passed, it will be up to Queen’s Park to ensure Ontario never goes back to the patchwork of privatized, underfunded and poorly-regulated seniors care.

In March, B.C.’s Provincial Health Officer took over control of staffing at some care homes in that province for six months, a measure designed to protect residents and ensure employees are guaranteed better pay, full-time hours, and are restricted to working at just one location. At that time, B.C. had outbreaks in about 19 long-term care homes. Ontario has close to 100 long-term care homes with outbreaks, in addition to outbreaks in other types of group living facilities for vulnerable people.