RELEASE: “We are outraged”: Health Coalition slams Ford government’s response to Auditor General on LTC, No responsibility taken for the among the worst death rates in the world
Posted: April 29, 2021
(April 29, 2020)
The Minister of Long-Term Care’s response to yesterday’s Auditor General’s long-term care report has left LTC families and advocates livid, reported the Ontario Health Coalition. Minister Fullerton, who has never taken responsibility for the almost 4,000 residents and staff who have died from COVID-19 in Ontario’s LTC homes, claimed that the government has worked quickly to address the problems. Yet the Ford government itself, cancelled and has never reinstated yearly surprise inspections, is not planning to increase care levels significantly until 4-years from now, has not held any long-term care home accountable for negligence, and has not imposed any accountability for the increases in funding to ensure they go to care rather than profit.
Media at the press conference repeatedly asked the Minister what responsibility she is willing to take for the horrific inadequacy in care and infection control and what actions the Ford government could have taken to address the problems. In 25 minutes of speaking, the Minister did not identify one single shortfall in the Ford government’s response, repeatedly blaming everyone else.
“We are outraged,” said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. “All the Ford government has done is deny, deflect and dissemble. If the Minister is not capable of taking responsibility, of expressing any sincere contrition for the Ford government’s record which is among the very worst record of long-term care fatalities in the world, then they are incapable of learning and changing. That is certainly what we have seen.”
“The care levels in Ontario’s long-term care homes remain absolutely atrocious.”
The Coalition hears from hundreds of families each month and the stories from all across Ontario are both heartbreaking and infuriating. Staffing is so low that residents are going without wound care, baths, time to be fed, time for human interaction, the ability to go outside. Family after family reports residents left alone in their rooms for hours on end. Staff report that they can never provide the care they know the residents need.
- The Minister claims that they are bringing in an “average” of 4-hours of care per resident per day. That is supposed to be a minimum, not an average, and it is supposed to be an enforced standard, not voluntary. Moreover, the policy as decided by the Ford government is to delay getting to even their proposed level of care for 4 more years, with the first increment (15 minutes) of improvement not slated until next April.
- The Minister continues to obfuscate on long-term care home inspections, never acknowledging that the Ford government cancelled the comprehensive annual surprise inspections after they were elected in 2018 and has never reinstated them. This has been a priority issue for the Ontario Health Coalition, families and advocacy groups for years.
- Not one single long-term care home operator has been fined, not even the for-profit chain companies that are responsible for the very worst death rates and horrific negligence in the pandemic. Not one has lost their license. In fact, the Ford government made it a priority in the fall to pass legislation barring lawsuits for negligence against them.
- The Minister claims that more than 8,000 staff were hired in the pandemic. There is no clear public reporting on current staffing levels and Ontario lost thousands of long-term care staff who got ill or left during the first wave, and thousands more in the second wave. There is no evidence of any such increase. In fact, staffing and care across the board remains the worst that the Ontario Health Coalition has seen.
- Using multiple different sets of figures in the $billions, the Minister conflated pandemic spending in long-term care with spending that is slated to happen over the next half-decade or more, much of which is going to build new long-term care beds, many of them owned by the same for-profit homes that had the very worst records in the pandemic. The funding for the new beds was promised long before the pandemic, and was part of the pre-election promises of the Ford government. It is not a pandemic response and all political parties in Ontario made similar promises.
- The government has not imposed any accountability for the increases in funding to ensure they go to care, rather than profit. Recently, Chartwell, a for-profit chain, gave large bonuses to its executive and board members, awarding itself excellent marks for its performance, to the utter horror and fury of families and advocates.