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I reviewed the freshly released report of Ontario’s Long-Term Care Commission with profound sadness Saturday.

It wasn’t just because nearly 4,000 long-term care residents have died of COVID so far — my 91-year-old dad being one of them — in a province that was ill prepared for the pandemic and whose handling of the first and second waves was a veritable train wreck.

But it was because the carefully crafted 332-page report was released late Friday night when it was too late to garner much attention — a sign, I believe, that the provincial government has no remorse, very little understanding of the destruction it caused by poor planning and bureaucratic ineptitude, and likely little intention of learning from its mistakes.

Our elderly population deserved and deserves far better.

Not much of what was said was a surprise to me having covered many aspects of the unfolding LTC and retirement home fiasco — and the impact on families with loved ones in care — starting exactly one year ago.


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The LTC report made it abundantly clear the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care was unprepared and a stockpiling of PPE was abandoned  post SARs by successive governments to tackle other fiscal priorities.

Diane Colangelo visits her 86-year-old mother Patricia through a window at the Orchard Villa long-term care home in Pickering.
Diane Colangelo visits her 86-year-old mother Patricia through a window at the Orchard Villa long-term care home in Pickering. Photo by Veronica Henri /Toronto Sun/Postmedia

It was akin to an accident waiting to happen with “no plan” to protect long-term care residents, an LTC workforce “stretched to the limit” prior to COVID for a population with dementia and other complex medical issues, poor oversight by the ministry and outdated buildings.

The report says the government had an “episodic and reactive approach” to the pandemic.

There were “ample warnings” from Italy, from Washington state and from B.C., but those warnings “were not acted upon with sufficient speed,” the report says.

The LTC commission says decisions made by the provincial chief medical officer of health David Williams and his counterparts “lacked urgency”– not recognizing early enough the potential of asymptomatic spread, still questioning on March 24 whether community spread was occurring and not ordering “universal masking” until April 8 of last year.

The province was also slow to require long-term care staff to work at a single home, not issuing a single site order until April 14, which took effect April 22 of last year.

“In a pandemic, days make a difference. Delay is deadly,” the report says.

  1. Members of the Canadian Armed Forces were called in to help at Pickering's Orchard Villa long-term care home on May 6, 2020.

    LEVY: Ontario LTC homes still a disaster

  2. Some 99% of long-term care (LTC) and retirement home residents have been vaccinated with both doses, and yet they're still locked into facilities -- not free to even venture outdoors with the nice weather.

    LEVY: Time to let long-term care residents out of their prisons

  3. People demonstrate in support of the well-being of long-term care home residents outside of Kennedy Lodge Long Term Care Home in the Scarborough area in Toronto.

    LEVY: An annus horribilus for those in long-term care homes


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The report says the it was not always clear who was in charge of dealing with the LTC outbreaks — both at the home level and at the provincial level.

“The government found itself making up its emergency response as it went along,” the commissioners say.

Residents were not properly cohorted — the chief medical officer of health’s direction on cohorting was “unhelpful” — and staff numbers “collapsed” in many homes, the report says.

Even after the disaster of the first wave unfolded, the report says there were inadequate preparations for the second far more pernicious wave, such as increased staffing, infection control preparation, inspections and partnerships with hospitals.

One of the most tragic outcomes — besides lives lost — was the decision to bar essential visitors from homes, leaving residents confined to their rooms with no social activities or visitors.

“Many residents experienced symptoms of what is known as confinement syndrome,” says the report.

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For-profit care received a bad rap during the pandemic and rightly so, given that there were a huge number of deaths in corporately-run homes with a profit motive.

The LTC Commission suggests that the private sector should be accessed to construct facilities and the government fund a payback scheme to allow developers to recoup their investment — but that entities running the homes should be responsible for resident care only, not on cutting corners to achieve a return on investment.

The report warns that demands for long-term care spaces and staff will only increase in years to come — and that the province is already way behind. As the report states, the population of those over 75 increased by 20% between 2011 and 2018 but there was only a 0.8% increase in long-term care beds.

It says by 2041 the province will require up to 115,000 LTC beds to accommodate the increased demand, along with much better home care support.


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