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Patients died from neglect, not COVID-19, in Ontario LTC homes, military report finds: ‘All they needed was water and a wipe down’

Karen Howlett, The Globe and Mail

Dozens of residents in two Ontario nursing homes hit hard by the coronavirus died not from COVID-19, but from dehydration and neglect, the Canadian military says in reports obtained by The Globe and Mail. The documents contain new details about the deplorable conditions in two Toronto homes before the Forces stepped in last year, revealing for the first time that causes other than COVID-19 hastened the deaths of residents as outbreaks spiralled out of control and staffing collapsed.

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Ontario’s COVID deaths in long-term care were predictable, but no one acted to prevent them

Brigitte Pellerin, The Ottawa Citizen

Government officials look us in the eye and tell us nobody is more important than our elders — but don’t mean it.

It’s amazing to realize it has taken a pandemic, thousands of deaths and a comprehensive commission report to tell us that treating humans like products from which to make a profit is a terrible idea. Prioritizing the economy over people hurts both, whereas putting people at the centre of care, as the Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission report recommends, benefits both. If only we could have thought of that by ourselves.

The commission report, which came out late last Friday, makes for horrendous reading. Having followed along and read all the transcripts since September, I had a good idea what it would contain. Be honest now: Is there anything in there that surprises you?

The human tragedy that has gripped the province’s long-term care sector and is still making residents’ lives miserable more than a year later — Ontario is just now starting to lift some of the confinement restrictions where long-term care residents are vaccinated — was entirely predictable, predicted, and not at all prevented. Because we consistently refused to put people ahead of economic considerations. 

The worst indictment from the report isn’t the low staff levels or the old buildings where people share bathrooms or the abuse we occasionally hear about. The worst indictment is the fact that everyone who should have known, knew in March 2020 that they needed to prevent long-term care staff from working in more than one home and needed to make masks mandatory. That evidence was crystal-clear and in jurisdictions that took those actions at that time the number of COVID-19 deaths in long-term care was much lower.

The Long-Term Care Commission report notes that the majority of long-term care residents who died in the first wave contracted COVID-19 between late March and late April 2020. How many lives would have been saved if the government had acted earlier? If masks and restricting all staff to one home had been implemented a month earlier, how many would have been spared the agony of suffocating to death?

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Fullerton vows to “do right” by LTC staff and residents after the release of a damning final report

Taylor Blewett, The Ottawa Citizen

Ontario minister Merrilee Fullerton vowed to “do right” by long-term care staff and residents after the release of a damning final report by a commission that probed the devastating spread of COVID-19 through Ontario long-term care homes. Fullerton, the minister for long-term care, said in a Monday press conference that the suffering experienced by LTC staff, residents, and their families would not be in vain, and committed to making long-term care a better place for residents to live and staff to work. She has yet to announce in any detail new measures being implemented in response to the commission’s recommendations. In its 322-page report, the commission said the province failed to learn from the SARS epidemic of 2003, that the LTC sector was completely unprepared for the pandemic, and long-festering challenges (underfunding, staffing shortages, out-of-date infrastructure, inadequate oversight) played a part in COVID-19 deaths in long-term care homes. To date, 3,760 LTC residents and 11 staff have lost their lives to the disease.

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Care home residents can go on outdoor trips without isolating

Lauren Turner, BBC News

Care home residents in England can now go on low-risk trips – such as to relatives’ gardens or a local park – without having to self-isolate for 14 days when they return. It comes after some families say they have felt “powerless” because of “restrictive” visits. One woman said her mother had not been outdoors for more than 12 months and it would be “amazing” to take her outside. Campaigners now want the rule change to become law, rather than just guidance. On Tuesday, the government’s coronavirus dashboard recorded 1,946 new infections, as well as four deaths within 28 days of a positive test across the UK. The recorded number of deaths is often lower immediately after weekends and bank holidays due to reporting lags.More than 50 million Covid vaccinations have been given in the UK so far, with 34,667,904 first doses and 15,630,007 second doses.Jenny Morrison, co-founder of Rights for Residents – a group founded to end “inhumane restrictions” preventing relatives visiting loved ones in care homes – told BBC Breakfast the change would certainly make a difference for her family, saying: “Mum’s care home is near the seafront. On a nice sunny day, after 14 months where she hasn’t been outside, it will be amazing for us to wheel mum down to the seafront and have a picnic. It will just be absolutely wonderful to take her mother outside.But she said some care homes were ignoring the guidance, with some families being given good access for visits, either indoors or outside, but others not. She said family members needed to be seen not as “just visitors” but as “essential components of people’s care”. A petition has been delivered to the government, calling for the guidance on visits to be made legally binding. It also calls for relatives of care home residents to be given essential caregiver status by law, so they could continue to visit loved ones in case of another lockdown.

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Fixing long-term care in Ontario is looking increasingly hopeless André Picard, The Globe and Mail

André Picard, The Globe and Mail

The 322-page final report of Ontario’s Long-term Care Commission was released at 7:18 p.m. on Friday night – the political equivalent of taking a shovel, digging a deep hole, and burying it. 

Then, on Monday morning, the province delivered another slap in the face to Ontario’s elders when Long-term care Minister Merrilee Fullerton offered up a mealy-mouthed response to the report, featuring such gems as “fixing the problem will take many solutions.” 

There is nothing surprising or new in the report, though that’s not a knock on the commissioners. It’s hard to come up with anything groundbreaking when more than 150 reports have been written since the advent of medicare about how to fix the hellishly inadequate long-term care system. 

There is nothing unexpected in the government’s response, either. Blaming previous governments for all failings and making vague commitments to do something, sometime – that’s all standard political fare. 

But at some point, politicians have to stop commissioning reports that they intend to send directly to the dumpster and start implementing the long-overdue and eminently sensible recommendations therein. 

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