Ontario admits to “staffing crisis” in long-term care homes before the pandemic

Minister of long-term care Merrillee Fullerton revealed that Ontario has been experiencing a “staffing crisis” with personal support workers (PSWs) for their long-term care facilities long before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the provincial address this afternoon alongside Premier Doug Ford, Fullerton said that the staffing issues have been an issue for the province “for years”.

“This has been an ongoing issue and it was something that our long-term care ministry was addressing through an expert panel to understand how we could help out homes have the right support and get the proper amount of staff,” Fullerton told the press.

The issues are now being addressed after the Canadian Armed Forces report that was released on Tuesday explained the situation going on in these facilities, with some of the serious allegations include lack of staff training and a shortage of professional staff.

The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) report, which was released on Tuesday, May 26, by the provincial government, provided a number of shocking claims, including reports of cockroach infestations, incidents of force-feeding that caused choking, and patients were crying for help for hours.

After the release of the report, Premier Doug Ford has been under fire for the negligence of pleas being made for investigations and inspections for these long-term care homes.

According to a statement made on Tuesday by Sharleen Stewart, the Service Employees International Union President, Ford has made things worse for those working in long-term care facilities.

“Doug Ford has refused to take action on increased staff-to-resident ratios. Doug Ford has capped the wages of the lowest-paid workers in long-term care. Doug Ford eliminated paid sick days for vulnerable essential workers. Doug Ford has limited inspections in long-term care. These decisions came from his desk,” Stewart said in a statement following the CAF report.

Premier Ford has previously stated that his government is going to conduct “rigorous testing” for the five homes that were reported by the CAF, and that a thorough inspection of “every home we’re concerned about” will be done within the next three weeks.

He also said Ontario will be conducting “spot-checks on homes throughout the system” and that “no stone will be left unturned”.

In addition to this, Ford has announced that the government would be extending the mandate of the Incident Management System (IMS) Long-Term Care Table, which is a panel of professionals that deal with issues found in long-term care facilities, like staffing, infection management, and protective equipment.

“In the event of a surge of new COVID-19 cases in the community, we will be prepared,” Ford told the press.

“We will do whatever it takes in our power to protect our most vulnerable seniors and assure they get the care they deserve. That is my commitment to our long-term care residents, to staff who care for them, their families and to the people of Ontario.”

Premier says he has been “taking bullets” for union

According to the province, 45 inspections have been conducted at the five homes mentioned in the CAF report between June 2018 and May 2020.

Premier Ford told the press that long-term care homes in Ontario have been inspected over the phone, instead of in-person, during the pandemic for safety reasons. He said “I’ve been taking bullets every day for the union. When I’ve been asked if they were doing telephone calls for inspections, well the truth of the matter is they were refusing to go into these homes.”

“I understand they were scared, this was in April, this was the peak of the peak of COVID-19 and all heck was breaking loose and they were nervous about their families, they were worried about their health, I get it, they aren’t medical professionals so I understand it, but I’m not going to continue taking bullets for something that there was no control that we had when the unions refused to go in.”

Premier Ford went on to say that inspectors will now be entering long-term care homes to conduct their assessments.

Hospitals take over long-term care homes

On Wednesday, Premier Ford announced that Ontario would now take over the four homes mentioned in the military report and Camilla Care Centre in Mississauga.

Hospitals will now be taking over the management of these facilities:

• Trillium health partners will take over Camilla Care Centre

• Unity Health Toronto will take over Eatonville Care Centre

• North York General Hospital will take over Hawthorne Place

• Scarborough General Hospital will take over Altamont Care Community

The province did not say which hospital would take over the management of Orchard Villa.

Ontario COVID-19 numbers

As of May 28, there are 383 new cases reported today, along with 34 deaths, bringing the provincial total to 26,866 confirmed cases, including 20,673 who have recovered, 2189 deaths. There are now 4,004 active cases.

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