The Ontario government is asking the federal government to extend the military’s current mission with long-term care homes for at least 30 days after the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) developed a report detailing serious problems within the care facilities.
The provincial government requested assistance from the federal government on April 22, seeking help from the CAF to support five long-term care homes in crisis. The homes were severely impacted by COVID-19 outbreaks and had significant issues with staffing, infection prevention and control, resident safety, food preparation, and janitorial services. The CAF reported 15 out of 20 categories as high-risk on May 10, noting serious concerns including burnout staff, unsanitary equipment and conditions, and infrequent or improper care. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau described the details of the report as “deeply disturbing” during a press briefing on May 26.
Based on assessment by the CAF, 13 of the 15 categories were no longer considered high-risk as of May 25, but as the homes begin to stabilize, the Ontario government is asking for continued support from the military.
“It is clear the long-term care system in Ontario must be fixed,” said Premier Doug Ford. “The report from the Canadian Armed Forces on these five long-term care homes is extremely troubling. Our government will take immediate action to investigate the concerns raised by the Canadian Armed Forces to ensure the safety of our residents in these five long-term care homes and in homes across the province.”
The report details instances in which residents had bleeding infections and other wounds, received expired medication, and were subjected to forceful feedings and aggressive transfers by staff. Staff reportedly experienced intense burnout, lack of training and communication, and medical and personal protective equipment that was locked up and unavailable to them. Several facilities also had bug infestations and other cleanliness issues.
The five long-term care homes include Orchard Villa in Pickering, Altamont Care Community in Scarborough, Eatonville Care Centre in Etobicoke, Hawthorne Place in North York and Holland Christian Homes’ Grace Manor in Brampton. There are currently 150 long-term care homes experiencing an outbreak out of the 626 homes in Ontario, down from a high of 190, according to the provincial government. Long-term care homes reported 1,855 active resident cases and 1,335 active staff cases as of May 25.
“The OPSWA is absolutely disgusted by the findings in our [long-term care] homes. However, we would be lying if we said we were surprised,” said the association in an online post. “The OPSWA, Our members and [personal support workers] have been SCREAMING this sort of information to the government – LTC needed a full overhaul YEARS ago! No more research, No more panels, No more studies. Enough is Enough. Fix the System NOW.”
The government has started an investigation based on the military’s report and one death has been referred to the coroner’s office for investigation so far, according to the province. Along with regular inspections, the Ministry of Long-Term Care Inspections Branch will investigate specific incidents mentioned in the report. The government also announced an independent commission into Ontario’s long-term care system that will begin in September and said officials will continue to work with hospital partners to support long-term care homes.
Click here to read the CAF report in full.