Local government documents obtained by CBC News show some indications that Ontario prepared the Department of Long-Term Care for the Risks of COVID-19 before the virus began its deadly spread through nursing homes in the province.
CBC News asked the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Long-Term Care for all reports, references and brief references to the Corona virus / Govt-19 novel and long-term care homes in February, March and April 2020.
Despite a steady stream of cases in Ontario, only a handful of documents from ministries cite the protection of long-term care residents in February, despite the devastating effects of the epidemic in Italy.
Overall, the documentation Add resources Suggests that the provincial government should pay less attention to preparing the long-term care sector for the impact of the corona virus than hospitals.
Even after March 11 was declared a global epidemic, documents show that various measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes have not been put on the table as options or put into practice for weeks.
Watch | Minister’s testimony to Ontario’s response to COVID-19 reveals lack of planning:
“Create clear public health guidelines to protect individuals in long-term care facilities and staff” is listed as an outstanding measure from Ontario’s COVID-19 Command Schedule entitled “Priority Issues”.
As of that date, 16 households have already reported confirmed cases of COVID-19. That number quadrupled in a week.
The next day, Premier Doug Ford promised an “iron ring” around Ontario’s vulnerable seniors. Nearly all of the 3,756 deaths of long-term care residents with COVID-19 occurred after that date.
Experts in the department say that documents obtained by CBC News through the province’s Freedom of Information Act provide further evidence that Ontario’s long-term care homes are not ready for infection.
Long-term care homes are “completely unsafe,” says Dr. Nathan Stahl, an elderly physician at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
“They were the last to receive personal protective equipment, which had adequate infection prevention and control procedures, and they were often excluded from the provincial plan,” he said in an interview Tuesday. “Everything focused on rigorous care and complex care, often excluding long-term care.”
Ontario’s Ministry of Long-Term Care has not developed an emergency plan to prepare for an outbreak, said Vivian Stamatopoulos, attorney for long-term care residents and their families.
“This government has failed to use a precautionary policy to keep these residents safe. I do not think there is any question about this at this time,” Stamatopoulos, an associate professor at the University of Technology in Ontario, said in an interview on Tuesday. “The sector was completely private and insecure.”
Previously dated documents issued by the Ministry of Long-Term Maintenance in response to the CBC’s request for freedom of information from March 17, 2020. They are letters to the province’s long-term care homes announcing $ 50 million in emergency funding for extraordinary expenses, including the spread of COVID-19.
The World Health Organization declared the corona virus outbreak novel a public health emergency of international concern on January 30, 2020.
New reports from the Commission, the Auditor
In the next few days, Ontarians will learn more about the behind-the-scenes details of the government’s handling of COVID-19 in long-term care homes.
The provincial auditor general on Wednesday released a special report on epidemic readiness and response to long-term care.
Friday is also the deadline for the Provincial Commission on COVID-19 to submit its final report to the government on long-term monitoring. The commission has interviewed more than 700 people and reviewed thousands of documents since it began work last summer.
Watch | Long-term maintenance staff are not limited to one home due to low pay, the commission said:
Long-term care minister Merrill Fullerton Told the Commission He raised concerns about several key issues before the government actually moved them. They added that the virus could be spread by those without symptoms, that long-term care homes should be locked, and that staff should wear personal protective equipment at all times.
It is not clear from the transcript of Fullerton’s testimony why prompt action was not taken as a result of his concerns.
Nearly half of the 8,000 Ontarians who have died from COVID-19 are long-term care residents.
CBC News initially demanded government records last May. The Ministry of Health released its documents in January, while the Ministry of Long-Term Care took over until the beginning of this month.
The Ministry of Long-Term Maintenance withheld 11 documents on the basis of instructions to the Government or the Cabinet Register, so they are exempt from disclosure. Of the 14 documents disclosed by the Ministry, six were letters written to long-term care operators regarding government funding related to the epidemic.
Other information disclosed by the documents:
- The transfer of patients from hospitals to long-term care homes was part of the government’s strategy to reduce hospital stays throughout March 2020, which was only suspended in April. At the time, long-term care homes already had a government document describing it as a “significant increase in outbreaks and deaths.”
- Ministry of Health on three sides Document It lists only two “best practices” related to long-term maintenance, entitled “COVID-19 Level and Activity Items” starting March 31, 2020. One said the Ministry of Long-Term Care should “coordinate with public health colleagues and use their expertise with infection control practices”.
- In mid-April, the province delivered Guidance For long-term care homes in palliative care “at the end of life” for patients dying of COVID-19.
During the second epidemic in Ontario, more than half of the COVID-related deaths in long-term care occurred last fall and winter.
However, as a result of vaccinations, COVID-19 deaths are rarely in long-term care during the third wave of Ontario. Only nine people infected with the virus died in March, and only three in April.