5 ways Doug Ford made the crisis in Ontario’s long-term care homes even worse
The military’s horrifying report on the crisis in Ontario’s nursing homes during COVID-19 has shocked Canadians with graphic descriptions of abuse and neglect. For seniors, their families, and healthcare workers who have been warning the government for years, however, this is nothing new. Premier Ford addressed the report in a live briefing, claiming that his government had no idea how bad things were in these long-term care homes.
In reality, the Ford government has not only been aware of the long-standing and horrid state of Ontario’s long-term care system, it has also contributed to the conditions inside these homes. Here are just a few of the ways Doug Ford has worsened the devastation inside the province’s nursing homes.
1. He cut comprehensive inspections down to nearly zero
Prior to Ford’s election, most Ontario nursing homes were subjected to comprehensive inspections every year. Doug Ford’s government scaled these inspections back, down to nearly zero.
In 2017, roughly 85 percent of homes received a full inspection. In 2018, just over half of the homes in the province received a full inspection. Last year, only nine out of the 626 homes in Ontario were fully inspected.
These comprehensive inspections have often uncovered evidence of neglect, poor sanitation, abuse and mishandling of medication – the very problems that were outlined by the military in their report.
2. He ignored calls to limit health workers to a single nursing home
Since early in the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses and experts have been urging the government to restrict nursing home staff to one workplace. This was something that was quickly mandated in British Columbia through a ban on working at multiple facilities.
In Ontario, however, it took until April 22 – well after COVID-19 had already spread among long-term care homes – for Ford to implement such a ban. In one Ontario nursing home, where this measure was enforced very early on, there have been zero deaths.
3. He issued an emergency order that removed training requirements for nursing home workers
Among the Ford government’s first responses to the COVID-19 crisis in long-term care homes was an emergency order that eliminated long-standing rules for protecting residents.
For-profit nursing home owners and operators were thrilled with the order. It gave them the authority to forego training and orientation requirements for new staff, many of whom were less qualified than regular staff.
Now, one of the biggest issues highlighted by the new military report is the lack of training for new staff in long term care facilities, resulting in poor adherence to infection control protocols and other problems.
4. He rejected OMA’s offers for increased physician support at nursing homes
The Ontario Medical Association (OMA) – the organization that represents the province’s doctors – sent multiple offers to Ford’s government that would have increased doctor-led medical support in long-term care homes.
The Ford government rejected these offers.
5. He cut provincial funding for long-term care
Prior to the emergence of COVID-19, the Ford government cut $34 million in long-term care funding. His budget also brought funding increases well below inflation, resulting in real-dollar cuts year-over-year.