Official Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath said the government’s move to take over the management of long-term care homes in Ontario is welcome, but should have come much sooner, and the government needs to take action on it quickly. The NDP has been calling on the government to do this for weeks, as Ontarians watched in horror as COVID-19 swept through long-term care facilities, infecting vulnerable seniors and staff.
Ontario’s first COVID-19 death in long-term care dates back to March 24. By March 31, British Columbia’s chief medical officer of health had assumed responsibility for nursing care staff in the Vancouver region, and by April 5, this authority was in effect province wide. Quebec was taking similar steps to help homes that were struggling by mid-April. In mid-April, in response to calls from the NDP, health unions and health care staff to take over homes, Ontario’s Long Term Care Minister Merillee Fullerton refused, saying: “Other provinces do things differently than Ontario.”
“Families who have a parent or grandparent in long-term care in Ontario will no doubt be relieved to learn the government is finally using its power to take over management in these facilities, but many will wonder why their loved ones were left so vulnerable for so long,” said Horwath. “We can’t afford to lose any more days or weeks in the middle of a pandemic when seniors’ and workers’ lives are on the line. Now that we’re moving in the right direction, we need to see swift action to get new leadership into those nursing homes in crisis.”
Horwath added that it’s troubling to see language suggesting that ‘corporations’ could be put in charge of these facilities, despite higher death rates in privately run long-term care homes. According to a Toronto Star report, the risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19 in a long-term care outbreak is four times higher in for-profit homes compared to municipally run public homes and double compared to non-profit homes.
“Seniors in Ontario and their loved ones deserve to know that when the government says it’s stepping in to take over the management of long-term care homes, it’s not just handing the reins from one private operator to another,” said Horwath. “We owe it to families across the province to get this right.”
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