Ontario has rejected a request by an independent commission asking for more time to complete its final report on the causes and prevention of COVID-19 spread in long-term care (LTC) homes across the province.
LTC minister Merrilee Fullerton says the deadline of the final report is still expected by April 30.
“Most documents responsive to the Commission’s document summonses and requests remain outstanding,” said the commissioners in their Dec. 9, 2020 letter, while also attributing the delay to the large amount of data they expect to receive.
“We understand the rationale for completing the report as soon as possible. We are however, writing to inform you that we will not have completed the investigation in time to deliver our report by the intended date.”
In her response to the commissioners on Dec. 23, 2020, Fullerton said there is still a great need for timely information to support the government’s ongoing work in handing the pandemic.
She said the commissioners should focus on areas that require immediate action and highlight issues that warrant further government examination in their report.
“Poor leadership communication to staff, poor onboarding of new staff, inappropriate levels of supervision and concerns about the clinical skills and quality of care of residents as main contributors to the crises in those homes,” the report wrote, citing the observations made by the Canadian Armed Forces when they were assigned to LTC homes in Ontario.
On top of that, the report said that Ontario’s decision in the fall of 2018 to end the Resident Quality Inspections in all LTC homes, in favor of using a risk-based approach based on complaints and critical incidents in order to clear backlog, has resulted in the province not getting a full picture of the “state of Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) and emergency preparedness” to handle this pandemic.
The report also found that fines and prosecutions are rarely applied on home operators, leaving a lack of urgency to address violations.