Since the outset of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Ontario government has put the safety and security of our seniors as a top priority. The onset of COVID-19 has only exacerbated the already difficult situation in long-term care in the province.
Today, the Ontario government outlined key findings from the Canadian Armed Forces report on the five long-term care homes at which the military has been assisting. The report details serious concerns around infection prevention, safety, staffing and level of care. The report also indicates that these five homes are beginning to stabilize with the support of the armed forces.
On April 22, the Ontario government formally requested assistance from the federal government in the form of the Canadian Armed Forces to support five long-term care homes that were in crisis. These homes were amongst the hardest hit in Ontario with COVID-19 outbreaks and had significant challenges that could not be rectified through various efforts. Those challenges included: staffing, infection prevention and control, resident safety, food preparation and janitorial services.
On May 10, the Canadian Armed Forces reported 15 out of 20 categories being in high-risk. As of May 25, based on the Canadian Armed Forces assessment, 13 of these 15 categories were no longer considered high-risk.
The Ontario government is once again calling on the federal government and the Canadian Armed Forces to extend their current mission for at least an additional 30 days.
The government has already begun an active investigation based on the Canadian Armed Forces report. To date, one death has been referred to the Office of the Chief Coroner for investigation. In addition to continued regular inspections, the Ministry of Long-Term Care Inspections Branch will immediately investigate specific critical incidents referred to in the report.
In addition, the government recently announced it will be launching an independent commission into Ontario’s long-term care system beginning in September. The government also continues to work with hospital partners to assist long-term care homes across the province with clinical, infection prevention and control, and other supports.
The Ontario government is taking additional immediate action at high-risk long-term care homes, following the disturbing allegations outlined by the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF).
The Ministry of Long-Term Care has deployed long-term care inspection teams to conduct comprehensive, detailed inspections at high-risk long-term care homes over the next 21 days. At the same time, the Ministry of Long-Term Care has started the process of appointing temporary management at Eatonville Care Centre, Hawthorne Place Care Centre, Altamont Care Community, Orchard Villa, and Camilla Care Community. Further, the recently announced independent commission into Ontario’s long-term care system will now begin its work in July 2020.
Starting May 28th, long-term care inspectors will be assessing six homes including those captured in the CAF reports and any reports previously filed regarding critical incidents in those homes. Six teams of two long-term care inspectors will go into each of the homes to do an expanded, stringent inspection process over a two-week period. The six homes being inspected include Eatonville Care Centre, Hawthorne Place Care Centre, Orchard Villa, Altamont Care Community, Camilla Care Community, and Holland Christian Homes Inc.
The teams will develop a customized inspection plan based on the details outlined in the CAF report. Their inspections will include record and chart reviews; in-depth interviews with staff and residents; and observations in order to determine the extent of the issues. The inspectors will follow a rigorous and consistent inspection methodology for all inspections.
After an inspection is completed in a high-risk home, the ministry will set up regular status calls, monitoring, as well as regular unannounced in-person follow up inspections with the home. Results of these and all other inspections will be posted publicly on the ministry website.
The government is also inspecting other long-term care homes that are currently considered high-risk over the next 21 days. Additionally, working with hospital and other partners, each of these homes will be required to submit a plan for the ministry that details how they intend to return to acceptable levels of care immediately.
Allegations such as the ones contained in the CAF report triggers the Ministry of Long-Term Care to share its findings with other agencies which may result in:
- Police investigations and potential criminal charges
- Ministry of Labour inspections into worker health and safety, given the lack of training observed
- Public health inspections into food preparation, etc.
- Referrals to professional colleges for practice standard violations, given medication management and care observations
During this unprecedented time, inspectors will continue to be deployed to ensure all homes are compliant with the Long-Term Care Homes Act. When the ministry receives any information from any source, it is immediately triaged. Where there is high or moderate risk to residents, a risk level is assigned and inspections are conducted in the home, regardless of its outbreak status.
The government’s priority is protecting the health and well-being of Ontarians, especially long-term care residents who are among Ontario’s most vulnerable seniors. The government will continue to explore every opportunity to provide further support to long-term care partners as the situation evolves.