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If I were Long-Term Care Minister Merilee Fullerton responding for the first time to a scathing 332-page report pinpointing the many screw-ups that occurred under my watch — mistakes that certainly contributed to the deaths of 4,000 Ontario seniors — the first thing I would have said is “I’m truly sorry.”

Considering Fullerton also purported to have come to politics to fix the mess in long-term care (LTC), I would have told the public “I’m heartbroken.”

I would have even sounded like I meant it.

I certainly wouldn’t have run out the door, as she did, after coldly advising everyone it’s “time to move forward” — leaving a plethora of unanswered questions.

LTC advocate Vivian Stamatopoulos, an associate professor at Ontario Tech University, called Monday’s news conference a “disgrace.”

“(It was) a stunningly ignorant display of disrespect to these families who have yet to receive an apology for the immeasurable trauma they incurred over the past year of failed leadership,” she said Tuesday.


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Just what does it cost to take responsibility for the suffering, the repeated lockdowns of vulnerable seniors without social activities or visitors, the lack of accountability and abuse of power by many of the homes under her watch, the negligence, and, of course, the deaths?

Fullerton and Premier Doug Ford already took care of the liability issue when they rammed through Bill 218.

That piece of legislation — which will require families of lost loved ones to prove gross negligence instead of simple negligence in any lawsuits against LTC and retirement homes — was passed during the third week of November when the second wave was killing LTC residents by the dozens.

There’s no doubt the Ford government inherited a system that had been starved by successive governments. New infrastructure was not built, staffing was already in crisis and the stockpiling of PPE had been abandoned post-SARs to fund other priorities. The LTC commission’s report made that clear.

But the buck stopped with Fullerton and Ford, who has been conspicuously quiet since the report was issued (perhaps deliberately) late Friday evening.

Can you imagine Fullerton, a doctor, standing before a hospital medical review panel telling them that “collectively as a society” we all have to do some soul-searching for the 4,000 deaths that occurred under her watch?

They’d bounce her out of the hospital with a copy of the Hippocratic Oath in hand.

But let’s cut her some slack for a moment, considering she claimed in her testimony to the LTC commission in late February that the complex system and the newness of the LTC ministry contributed to the crisis.


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It is also true that the LTC commission criticized the chief medical officer of health for not acting quickly enough on asymptomatic spread, universal masking, and not giving advice about proper cohorting to homes experiencing an outbreak.

Having said that, I wouldn’t be saying that LTC homes have “dramatically improved,” as she did, just because all residents have been vaccinated. Most residents are coming out of a year of isolation and debilitating confinement.

Considering that inspections of LTC homes are virtually non-existent and that  Bill 218 makes it nearly impossible for families of residents to hold to account administrators and corporations who run these homes, I would have made it abundantly clear that inspections will be one of my first priorities.

It’s not just inspections themselves but monitoring and compliance — with funding withdrawn or licenses yanked if issues aren’t corrected within a tight timeframe of say 30 days.

I would also make it clear that homes — who’ve been paid for beds not filled in the past year — are all responsible to hire more staff and to start allowing essential caregivers in on a regular basis without any (often manufactured) issues.

Homes that don’t abide by these rules should also be ordered to comply or risk losing their licenses.

  1. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario's minister of long-term care, attends a media availability at the Queen's Park in Toronto on Monday, May 3, 2021.

    Horwath calls for Fullerton’s resignation in wake of LTC report

  2. 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

But what do I know?

I only lost my dad to COVID, which raged through his dementia facility. I have spent the last year speaking to families who had heartbreaking tales about being shut out of homes as they watched their loved ones decline.

I’ve seen the broken system up close.


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