COVID-19: Getting To The Bottom Of The Nursing Home Story In Ontario

A daughter in the foreground waves up towards a multi-storey rehab hosipital and long term care home
Contactless photo by michael_swan is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0
During COVID-19 lockdown, a daughter waves to her mother in Providence Healthcare, Toronto.

In Ontario, Canada, there have been two COVID-19 stories: one in the community and one in long term care homes. The number of outbreaks, and higher frequencies of COVID-19 illnesses and death in care homes has raised a lot of questions and a determination to “get to the bottom of this”.

The provincial government has promised a commission to look into the situation. This doesn’t sit well with SEIU Healthcare, which represents 60,000 health workers in long term care homes and hospitals in Ontario. SEIU Healthcare wants an Inquiry, which is public and can compel reluctant witnesses to testify. See at CBC: Union calls for public inquiry, criminal investigations into COVID-19 deaths at long-term care homes

The media is asking about the independence of a commission. Read more at Toronto.com: Scarborough COVID-19 outbreak ‘exactly why’ Ontario needs public inquiry and at this paywalled article in The Globe and Mail: Ontario says it will ‘review’ long-term care system post-COVID-19, but won’t commit to independence

Academics have also weighed in to advocate for an Inquiry, this time at the national level. One of the reasons for a national Inquiry is to be able to evaluate different responses across the country. See more about this in The Conversation: We need inquiries into why coronavirus is ravaging long-term care homes

A recent post at affordablehousingaction.org compares care home responses in BC and Ontario: COVID-19: Nursing Home Care — A Tale Of Two Provinces. The differences in the responses demonstrate that some questions about the COVID-19 reponses in long term care homes would be best addressed at a national level.

Does a call for a national inquiry have a chance? It seems more likely with the disclosure that one of the country’s largest private care home companies is owned by the federal government’s pension fund. See CBC: One of Canada’s largest long-term care operators is owned by a federal Crown corporation

The Canadian Armed Forces have been deployed to assist operations in five Ontario long term care homes. The Forces’ report of conditions in those homes is nothing short of appalling. The findings certainly lend weight to the calls for an Inquiry. See at CBC: Ford faces blowback after military report reveals ‘horrific’ conditions at Ontario long-term care homes

Ontario’s Premier remains determined that a formal inquiry is not the way to go.

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