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Ombudsman launching investigation into Ontario’s oversight of long-term care during pandemic

Ontario’s ombudsman is launching an investigation into the province’s oversight of long-term care homes during the COVID-19 pandemic over concerns about conditions and outbreaks in facilities across the province.

This comes a week after a scathing military report revealed shocking conditions and practices in five of the province’s long-term care homes where members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) had been called in to assist.

According to a news release, investigators will examine whether the oversight by the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Health is “adequate to ensure the safety of residents and staff.”  

Among other things, the investigation will look at the handling of complaints, inspections of long-term care facilities, emergency plans put in place during the pandemic and communication to residents, staff and the public, the release said.

“The Canadian Armed Forces report painted a stunning portrait of the situation in long-term care during this crisis; our investigation will look at the systemic issues that led to it, and will make constructive recommendations for corrective action,” Ombudsman Paul Dubé said in a statement.

“Determining the root causes of administrative dysfunction and recommending practical solutions is what we do.”

The CAF report included a list of allegations that the military says may have contributed to large outbreaks experienced at each of the homes, including repeated use of medical equipment on multiple COVID-19 patients, failing to respond to residents’ calls for help for up to two hours, and the presence of insects such as cockroaches and ants in the facilities.

Premier welcomes investigation

In a news conference on Monday, Premier Doug Ford said he welcomed an investigation from the ombudsman, and added he would welcome probes from the auditor general, the coroner’s office and “possibly police.”

“We’re going to fix this problem as sure as I’m standing here,” he said.

“I need answers. I want answers.”

There have been 306 outbreaks reported in Ontario’s long-term care homes since the pandemic began in January, with over 1,600 resident deaths and seven staff deaths. 

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