The final team members of the Canadian Armed Forces will wrap up their work at Ontario long-term care facilities on Friday.
Upon being deployed to several facilities across the province, the Armed Forces identified what many are calling long-standing issues in long-term care. Findings included seniors left in soiled diapers and linens, bug and cockroach infestations, rotting food and COVID-positive patients left in rooms with healthy patients. Many problems seemed to point to the much-discussed under-staffing issues in these facilities.
The Ontario government expressed its gratitude to Armed Forces members who “went above and beyond the call of duty to temporarily support high-priority long-term care homes during the height of the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Under Operation LASER, the Canadian Armed Forces deployed teams consisting of nurses, medical technicians and additional personnel. They have been working in Ontario long-term care homes since April providing staffing support and helping with infection prevention and control, and other duties such as cleaning and food preparation.
“We owe our brave men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces, and the military families who support them, a debt of gratitude for their service to our province during this crisis,” said Premier Doug Ford. “From providing relief to our frontline workers, to taking care of our loved ones in long-term care homes, they have been there for their fellow Canadians when we needed them most. We hope to find ways in the near future to properly show our thanks for their contributions and for the contributions of all Ontarians who have gone above and beyond these past few months.”
Over the course of their mission, the Canadian Armed Forces teams supported Orchard Villa, Holland Christian Homes Grace Manor, Altamont Care Community, Eatonville Care Centre, Hawthorne Place Care Centre, Downsview Long Term Care, and Woodbridge Vista Care Community.
In May, the Ontario government responded immediately to the findings of the Canadian Armed Forces report. The Ministry of Long-Term Care has been addressing issues around infection control, standards of practice/quality of care, supplies, local practices, communication, staffing and inappropriate behaviour. To-date, the following action has been taken:
– Each home identified at that time as high-risk has been inspected or has an inspection underway.
– Inspections at all the Canadian Armed Forces-supported homes have been completed and have since been expanded with inspectors remaining onsite.
– Temporary management has been appointed at Altamont Care Community, Camilla Care Community, Orchard Villa, Extendicare Guildwood, River Glen Haven, Downsview Long Term Care, Woodbridge Vista Care Community, Forest Heights and Hawthorne Place Care Centre.
– Each home identified as high-risk has been required to submit a plan to the ministry that details how they are improving care standards.
Additional measures taken to support staff and residents in long-term care homes include emergency funding, regulatory flexibility, staffing support, expanded testing, direction and guidance on outbreak management, infection prevention, and assistance provided by public hospitals to homes in outbreak.
The government recently announced the launch of an independent, non-partisan commission into Ontario’s long-term care system beginning in July 2020. Details of the commission are now being finalized, including the terms of reference, membership, leadership of the commission and reporting timelines.
“In this time of exceptional need, we are grateful for the support we received from the Canadian Armed Forces teams in our long-term care homes,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. “Their experience and expertise in emergency situations have been crucial in fighting this virus and helping to protect our residents and staff in long-term care homes.”
“The Canadian Armed Forces have been tremendous partners in helping support some of the most vulnerable Ontarians during this unprecedented time,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “We are grateful for the support and protection they provided to our long-term care home residents in the midst of our fight against COVID-19.”