April 28th, 2020

New strategy for seniors care needed to win battle against COVID-19

QUEEN’S PARK — Ontario is not winning the battle against COVID-19 in long-term care and other congregate care settings — and it’s time for a new plan to protect residents and staff, says Andrea Horwath, Leader of the Official Opposition NDP.

“We are so grateful for every hour of care the staff is providing in long-term care homes, and in other congregate care settings. We need to do more to support them, and care for residents,” said Horwath. “Nearly 700 of the 900 people who have died in Ontario with COVID-19 were residents of long-term care homes. It’s time to acknowledge that the government’s plan for seniors care isn’t working. We need a new plan to win the battle against COVID-19 in seniors care.”

Horwath says that plan should include an order for Public Health to take over the direct management of long-term care homes where seniors aren’t well protected, plus mandated requirements for infection control, staffing and communication with residents and their families.

Anson Place, where at least 23 residents have died and 33 staff have contracted the virus, refused the province’s offer of a “SWAT” team to help in the home. A class-action lawsuit is being attempted against several homes for failing to protect residents. The Superior Court of Ontario has ruled that several homes have failed to provide proper protections and infection control for staff and residents. And Ontario’s Health Ombudsman reported Monday receiving complaints from staff and concerned family members about the conditions in long-term care.

“Why are we letting private, for-profit homes turn down help? Why are we letting these largely unregulated homes continue to determine their own staffing levels, isolation strategies and infection control plans?” Horwath asked.

“Action to protect seniors in care came too late — and I think we now have to admit it’s been too little. For the sake of vulnerable seniors’ precious lives, we need the government to adopt new, urgent measures, and fix this horrifying crisis in long-term care.”

Horwath said the plan should include:

  • Criteria for handing direct management of facilities over to public health
  • Mandated minimum staffing requirement in each home, on each shift
  • Mandated infection control and isolation requirements
  • A plan to provide personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks, to all homes, and require staff wear PPE at all times
  • Mandate what homes must communicate to residents and their families

To date, no information has been released about how many “SWAT” teams the government will form, and which homes they’ll be supporting.