Ontario was not prepared for a pandemic and the long term care homes had been neglected for decades making them easy targets for uncontrolled outbreaks. The report said we should have learned our lesson after the SARS outbreak in 2003. After that outbreak large stockpiles of PPE were ordered, but as the years passed the stockpiles were destroyed and not replenished. It noted that LTC staff were not trained in infectious disease control. The condition of the homes was another issue. The aging stock of facilities still had wards instead of private rooms and shared bathrooms.
The needs of the LTC sector have become more complex with more people living longer and more and more LTC residents suffering from some form of dementia.
The report noted that only the private sector has the necessary capital to build the number of new beds that will be needed, but the report also suggested that the care of residents need not be handled by the same entity that builds the facilities.
Before the residents of Long Term Care could be vaccinated, 4,000 of them had died along with 11 LTC staff. The report said the provinces Public Health officials were slow to recognize the severity of the outbreak.
Interestingly. The report found that Long Term Care Minister Dr. Merrilee Fullarton who has been the brunt of opposition criticism, was one of the first to recognize the severity of the outbreak. “The Minister of Long Term Care , a medical doctor, had independently concluded that the risk was not low and refused to state in a video that it was. Unfortunately Minister Fullarton’s appreciation of the risk was not shared by the medical leadership of the government and did not translate into broader public communications.”
The report makes 85 recommendations ranging for more, better paid staff, new or upgraded facilities and stricter enforcement. The finding pose a challenge for the government because the costs of meeting the recommendations will be staggering. The full report can be accessed here.