May 19th, 2020
Hon. Doug Ford
Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park.
Re: A Call to Reform Ontario’s Long Term Care Homes
As Toronto’s Seniors Advocate, I commend today’s announcement by Minister Fullerton that your government is proposing the launch of an independent Commission into Ontario’s long term care system. The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has been particularly devastating to our elder population, especially in long term care homes where, in too many cases, it has been running rampant.
To better support seniors and help ensure that an outbreak of this magnitude never happens again in our province, please consider the following three recommendations for adoption by the Minister of Long Term Care:
1) Initiate an independent, objective and impartial inquiry into Ontario’s long term care homes:
In July 2019, a long term care homes public inquiry on the safety and security of residents was established to inquire into the events which led to, and allowed, offences committed by a registered nurse working in a long term care home. While the recommendations tabled in the report are paramount to improving safety and security of residents in our homes, they do not consider lessons from a pandemic that had yet to occur.
That’s why, an independent, objective and impartial Inquiry is necessary to address the growing number of outbreaks and deaths recorded in homes across our Province. This Inquiry should not be partisan nor punitive. Rather, the focus should be uncovering systemic issues and gaps that led to the issues we are currently facing.
An Inquiry, as opposed to a Commission, offers additional investigative tools, resources and a transparent process. The tragedies suffered by long term care residents, their families, and staff merits nothing less.
2) Immediate changes made to the level and quality of care in long term care homes, with respect to pandemic relief:
Additional supports for staff and residents are needed now to stem the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes, but is not limited to:
• Greater access to personal protective equipment
• Increased proactive inspections, as done in the Kingston region
• Increased testing
• Other improvements made to supply, capacity and infection control measures
• Following Alberta’s lead, in homes that have zero recorded outbreaks, and when deemed safe to do so, each resident should be granted an essential visitor, which would contribute to and improve residents’ quality of life
• For homes that are unfortunately experiencing an outbreak, greater access to technology is needed, so residents can connect with their loved ones more often, as loneliness can have a direct impact on health and longevity
3) Culture Change: Adopt emotion-centered approaches to care into Ontario’s Long Term Care Homes Act, 2007 (LTCHA) and Ontario Regulation 79/10
In the midst of this pandemic, we cannot lose sight of the importance of planning for our future. In Toronto, I led an initiative to create emotion-centered approaches to care in our City’s 10 long term care homes. I recommend that this approach be considered for homes across our Province with an update to the care standards as outlined in Ontario’s Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 (LTCHA) and Ontario Regulation 79/10. This approach to care has proven to benefit residents through reductions in unintended weight loss, falls, negative responsive behaviors, the use of anti-psychotics and cost-savings to our healthcare system. In order to successfully incorporate these guiding principles within our homes, staffing ratios must be increased. This request, which was listed as a recommendation in the 2019 public Inquiry and to be tabled in the legislature this summer, is crucial, as staff shift the focus of their care from a task-based, to an emotion-centred approach. With the increases made to staffing ratios, consideration should also be made to ensure their jobs become less precarious and transient through the forms of better compensation, benefits and ability to work in one home.
We owe it to our long term care homes staff and residents, along with their families and friends, to take the necessary steps to ensure that they’re provided the highest standards of safety and care. Those who we’ve lost to COVID-19 deserve nothing less than transformational change. Let this be their legacy.
Thank you for your continued work to support our seniors.
Councillor Josh Matlow
Toronto – St. Paul’s
cc: Minister of Long Term Care, Hon. Merrilee Fullerton
Minister for Seniors Accessibility, Hon. Raymond Sung Joon Cho
Deputy Premier, Minister of Health, Hon. Christine Elliot