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LEVY: LTC Commission issues stern rebuke to province and home operators

Posted: December 6, 2020

(December 5, 2020)

By: Sue-Ann Levy, Simcoe Reformer

A body is removed from the Eatonville Care Centre long-term facility in Etobicoke which has experienced a COVID-19 outbreak. PHOTO BY JACK BOLAND /Toronto Sun/Postmedia Network

It is to say the least unconscionable.

The Ontario government and some long-term care home operators have learned so little, or worse, nothing, from the first wave of COVID that their own appointed LTC commission came out with a sternly worded letter Friday rebuking all parties involved for the lack of effective leadership, accountability, poor oversight and enforcement of homes considered bad actors.

Let’s not forget these are the very factors that caused more than 2,000 deaths in LTC homes during the first wave and are now contributing, yet again, to the rampant spread of the virus in homes during the second wave.

The Commission reminded the government that more than 100 homes are now experiencing an outbreak and more than 300 residents have succumbed to the disease.

A thorough report released by Ontario Health Coalition’s Natalie Mehra last week says there are outbreaks in 117 LTC homes, 45 of which involve more than 10 residents and/or staff.

As of Dec. 1, 381 residents have died.

Mehra says the numbers of people infected in long-term care has “grown at an alarming rate” since early September.

“More than 3,462 residents and staff have been infected … since the beginning of September,” she said.

The Commission’s members touched on all of the themes pointed out by seniors and long-term care advocates during the first wave.

It is interesting to note that the provincial government was able to ram through Bill 218 on Nov. 17. That bill, retroactive to March 17, severely limits the ability of families who lost loved ones to prove negligence during the first wave. It essentially gives bad LTC homes a “get-out-of-jail-free” card, according to the advocates.

But they seem to be at a loss to get their act together to make bad homes do the right thing.

The Commissioners say “effective on-site leadership” makes all the difference when it comes to containing an outbreak.

But even more crucial is the continued gross lack of transparency around reporting staffing levels, the proper supply of PPE, staff engagement, and resident and family satisfaction with a particular home.

Homes are not required to post performance reports and as I have reported many times, the Commission says not only is the province’s oversight extremely weak, almost laughable, but there is limited enforcement of the few directives given to these facilities.

Whether or not these recommendations will spark some political will remains to be seen.

Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate teaching professor at Ontario Tech University who has been a much-needed voice for LTC families during the first and second waves, said the Commission’s report contains recommendations that advocates and experts in the area have been pressing the government to act upon for months, if not years.

“So far, the commissioner’s recommendations for change have been disregarded,” she said. “Will this government actually listen to the commissioners they themselves put in place and begin to help a sector in need of desperate repair or will they continue to look the other way while our seniors in care die by the day?”

As many of my readers know, I now have more than my fair share of lived experience.

I lost my dad a week ago to COVID-19. The dreaded virus raged through his dementia facility, infecting all but one of the 47 residents. Fourteen died, including my sweet dad.

The facility is well-known for its excellent care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. My dad was doing very well there until COVID struck.

I can only imagine what is occurring in large LTC homes with negligent operators.

These people need to remember, as I do, that they too will be vulnerable one day.

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