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EDITORIAL: Military report exposes crisis in long-term care Sudbury Star

Posted: May 28, 2020

(May 27, 2020)

The fact it took the Canadian military to reveal the true scope of the horrific conditions in five Ontario long-term care homes more than two months after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic is deeply alarming.

Why didn’t the province’s inspection system uncover these appalling conditions long before now, including unconscionable examples of patient neglect and abuse, a complete breakdown of infection control, rotten food, cockroach infestations and bed-bound seniors lying helpless in their own waste?

With almost 80% of Ontario’s COVID-19 deaths occurring in the province’s long-term care facilities, it’s obvious these problems aren’t confined to these five homes, or that the system was operating properly until the pandemic hit.

Premier Doug Ford called the military’s findings “heart-breaking, horrific … gut wrenching” adding, “reading those reports is the hardest thing I’ve done as premier.”

It also happened on his watch, which means it’s now his job to start fixing a broken system, which critics say Ford compounded by providing inadequate funding.

But Ford doesn’t carry the can for this alone.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he was “sad” “shocked” “disappointed” and “angry” about the military’s findings, rightly added: “I believe we’re talking about a situation that clearly is a reality associated with COVID-19, but has also existed for quite some time now.”

Exactly. Problems with Ontario’s long-term care homes go back decades and are the result of successive failures by provincial governments of all stripes.

As the Ontario Health Coalition noted in a January 2019  report — before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19 — the root problems are a lack of beds, which have created a massive waiting list of patients, and inadequate funding and standards to provide proper care for those already in the homes.

Ford promises the five homes cited in the report by the military will be held accountable for their actions, including the possibility of criminal charges of neglect.

But that won’t address the much wider problems in long-term care, nor will the government’s promise of an independent commission or a public inquiry called for by the government’s critics.

Nothing will change unless governments of all political stripes going forward are committed to fixing a crisis they caused through decades of neglect.

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