No requirement to prepare for a pandemic, coupled with long-standing, unaddressed weaknesses in infection control and prevention in Ontario’s long-term-care homes contributed to the tragic impacts of COVID-19 on long-term care residents, concluded Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk in her special report on COVID-19 Readiness and Response in Long-Term Care.
“Despite very specific observations and recommendations on preparing for future SARS-like outbreaks by our Office and others, actions taken over the years have been insufficient to ensure that we would be better prepared as a province – and Ontario’s long-term care homes were among the first to be impacted,” Lysyk said following the release of the report today. “Unfortunately, neither the Ministry of Long-Term Care, nor the long-term-care sector was sufficiently positioned, prepared or equipped to respond to the issues created by the pandemic in an expedient and effective way.”
The audit found that long-term-care homes were ill-prepared to prevent or minimize COVID-19 outbreaks due to chronic staffing shortages and inconsistent practices in infection prevention and control prior to COVID-19. As well, many residents were in rooms with three or four occupants, in homes which had not yet been required to redevelop to the one- to two-occupant standards set by the province in 1999. The audit found that homes with more than two residents sharing rooms tended to experience more severe outbreaks.
The audit, which has 16 recommendations, also notes that the long-term-care sector is largely disconnected from other institutions in the health-care sector. The report notes that many homes were not able to draw on the staffing and infection prevention and control expertise of hospitals and public health units when they needed it most.
“In recent months, a number of government commitments have been made to improve long-term care and this, along with continued attention to our recommendations, would go a long way toward ensuring seniors living in Ontario’s long-term-care homes are accorded the well-deserved dignity, safety and comfort that is clearly envisioned in the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007,” said Lysyk.
SOURCE Office of the Auditor General of Ontario