Ontario is not ready to solve an epidemic and has no plans to protect residents in long-term care due to years of neglect, an independent commission said in its final report released Friday evening.
The provincial long-term maintenance COVID-19 Commission submitted its final 322-page report to the provincial government on Friday night, highlighting the actions and actions that contributed to the catastrophic long-term care during COVID-19 epidemics.
“Many of the challenges in the long-term care industry over the decades – chronic funding, severe staff shortages, outdated infrastructure and poor oversight – have contributed to the dangerous consequences for Ontario’s most vulnerable citizens during epidemics,” the commission wrote.
The report found that the province had failed to learn a lesson from the SARS epidemic in 2003 and needed major reforms to protect Ontario’s vulnerable residents in the future.
“It is time to reconsider the distribution model for long-term care and to adopt the best way to provide care for Ontario seniors,” the report said.
With nearly 4,000 residents and 11 employees COVID-19 dead by the end of April, the commission said poor facility design and overcrowding have increased morbidity and mortality in nursing homes.
It said the situation was exacerbated by severe staff shortages and a staff that was poorly trained in infection control measures.
“It is clear and obvious that Ontario needs to develop, implement and maintain long-term solutions to care for its elderly and prepare them for future epidemics.”
Reacted very slowly
The commission said new facilities should be built to address the needs of the province’s aging population, and the government should reconsider how those nursing homes are managed by focusing on quality maintenance.
It suggested a new model to create long-term care homes in the future, similar to those for privately funded hospitals, courts and light rail systems.
“They are all involved in building infrastructure that is prepaid by private investors who receive returns on their capital at a profit over time. However, others actually run the infrastructure – such as courts and hospitals – once built,” the report said.
Then, the Commission advises, a purpose-oriented organization – whether it is public, for-profit or for-profit – will handle the care of residents.
The Commission took up the particular issue with long-term care homes owned by investors.
“Care should be the sole focus of companies responsible for long-term care homes,” it said.
It also recommended that the provincial government – especially Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams – act more slowly on the growing information about COVID-19.
The province was reluctant to acknowledge that community outbreaks were taking place, that asymptomatic patients could spread the virus, and that masks would be helpful when it came to prevention.
“The delay is terrible,” the commissioners wrote.
Ontario launched the commission on May 19, 2020, in an effort to determine what went wrong in long-term care homes during the first wave of the epidemic.
At the time, long-term care residents accounted for nearly 1,400 of the state’s 1,904 COVID-19 deaths. At that time five employees died due to COVID-19.
But even after the commission was launched – and after it issued two interim recommendations – the virus continued to tear up facilities.
The commission, headed by High Court Associate Chief Justice Frank Morocco, asked long-term care residents, staff and management.
It questioned government officials from Williams to long-term care minister Merrill Fullerton to health minister Christine Elliott.
The military leaders who organized a deployment of long-term care homes also testified, describing the circumstances surrounding the mission and the poor reporting of conditions within the facilities.
In total, the commission heard from more than 700 people.