TORONTO – Steven Del Duca, Ontario Liberal Party Leader, made the following statement:
Yesterday, Ontario reached a grim milestone: 1,000 COVID-19 related deaths. First, let me express my condolences to the families of those who have passed away.
A majority of those are the residents of long term care homes; 654 in total (as of April 27).
I am expressing my concern because these facts are deeply troubling and should have been addressed earlier.
We have been calling since March 30th for the government to take serious – and specific – action to secure the safety of seniors. They are moving far too slowly. While other provinces moved quickly to safeguard its seniors, Ontario waited.
Two examples stand out as particularly concerning. First, it was only last Wednesday that full-time, long term care workers were restricted to working in one facility, while other provinces made this change weeks ago. There is still a giant loophole that allows contract workers to serve multiple facilities.
Second, we have heard repeatedly from home care workers that they do not have the proper access to PPE.
In light of all of this, the province must take urgent action to mandate the inspection of all long term care facilities. Less than 1% of long term care homes were comprehensively inspected last year – a shocking 9 of 626 sites.
In addition to inspecting all LTC homes in Ontario immediately, I suggest the province must act swiftly to protect Ontarians by:
- Testing – Ontario should be testing up to 20,000 people a day, prioritizing high-risk facilities such as hospitals and long-term care homes, as has been done in countries like Germany.
- Better PPE procurement – Quickly identify, source or scale up the production of masks, swabs, reagents and additional medical equipment that is lacking.
- Establish a plan for contract tracing – the province can look to use cell phone data as has been done in Asia.
- Robust data collection – to better inform where outbreaks have occurred to prevent further spread. The province must capture enhanced intake data so we know ethnicity, profession and household makeup.
These actions need to take place immediately if Ontario has a chance to curb long term care home deaths.