Ontario’s volunteers and small businesses are rising to the challenge and helping seniors and other vulnerable people during the COVID-19 outbreak. Thousands of people are generously giving their time and resources to make and deliver food, run errands, and check in on those who are self-isolating.
On April 9, the government announced it was investing $100,000 in its partnership with SPARK Ontario to support the province’s first bilingual volunteer hub connecting volunteers with community organizations that support vulnerable Ontarians. To date, the response has been tremendous:
- Over 54,000 users have visited the SPARK Ontario website to learn how they can volunteer;
- Over 3,500 civic-minded Ontarians have signed up on the site to volunteer, and over 3,100 have contacted community organizations regarding a volunteer opportunity; and
- 141 community organizations have registered for volunteer matching and more than 100 COVID-19-related volunteer opportunities have been posted online.
The government has partnered with the Older Adults Centres Association of Ontario to help implement the Seniors Centres Without Walls model of programming, where isolated seniors can participate in group programs over the phone. As of April 30, 2020, 35 programs have begun running in their communities.
Through the new Ontario Community Support Program, the province is working with the Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and their large volunteer base to increase Meals on Wheels food deliveries and deliver essential supplies to isolated, low-income seniors and people with disabilities and chronic medical conditions. More than 500 meal referrals and nearly 2,000 essential supply referrals have been made since the program launched in mid-April.
The Ministry of Long-Term Care has issued Mandatory Management Orders appointing local hospitals to temporarily manage two long-term care homes for 90 days. Southlake Regional Health Centre will temporarily manage River Glen Haven Nursing Home in Sutton and Humber River Hospital will temporarily manage Downsview Long Term Care in North York. The orders may be extended beyond the 90 days, if necessary.
Despite receiving hospital support for weeks, these homes have been unable to contain the spread of COVID-19. By taking these steps the government is enabling a rigorous management structure to help contain the spread of the disease and assist in returning these homes to normal operations.
The Ministry of Long-Term Care will continue to make decisions on which long-term care homes may require additional management support on a case-by-case basis. The province is working with its health partners in addressing challenges in the long-term care sector by involving hospitals in deploying Infection Prevention and Control teams to homes, continued staff and resident testing, addressing personal protective equipment supply issues, and redeploying hospital staff to help with critical staffing shortages in long-term care homes.