Currently Browsing: The Ottawa Citizen

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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LTC report recommendations draw thumbs up; now it’s time for Ontario to act, advocates say

Bruce Deachman, The Ottawa Citizen

The recommendations released Friday by Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission are getting top marks from those who have been advocating for wholesale reform of the sector. What those people want to see now, though, is the implementation by the province of those proposals.“It would be really nice to see an action plan,” says Grace Welch. “I don’t want this to be another report that sits on a shelf.” Welch is the advocacy committee chair at the Champlain Region Family Council Network, a volunteer-run organization that supports family councils — those groups typically comprised of family members of residents of LTC facilities, who represent the interests of those residents.

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Let for-profits build LTC homes, and mission-driven entities run them – Says the report from Ontario’s Long-term Care Commission

Joanne Laucius, The Ottawa Citizen

With files from Elizabeth Payne

The commission, headed by Associate Chief Justice Frank N. Marrocco, Dr. Jack Kitts, former president and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital, and Angela Coke, a former senior executive on the provincial public service, has been at work since last September. The report criticized Ontario’s lack of preparation for a pandemic, especially after the lessons learned in the 2003 SARS crisis, LTC homes, which had been neglected for decades by successive governments, were easy targets for uncontrolled outbreaks, it said. The report said it would take leaders with hearts and minds to re-imagine long-term care in Ontario.

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Short-term thinking about long-term care

The Citizen Editorial Board, The Ottawa Citizen

No one wants to spend their later years in an institution. So why don’t we focus more on how to keep them out of one? Yet this is still what governments focus on: not keeping people healthy at home – which would make them happier, prolong their lives and likely cost the health system less – but on “fixing” a model of institutional care that promises low quality of life for residents, low pay for workers, and insufficient resources for everyone.

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