Ontario's Patient Ombudsman is launching an investigation into COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care homes, focusing on the "resident and caregiver experience."
Ontario hasn't had anyone occupying the Patient Ombudsman role since Christine Elliott left it to re-enter politics, but the office is still taking complaints from the public.
In April, the office launched a public appeal for COVID-19 complaints in long-term care, asking people to disclose situations in which they felt the safety of residents and staff might be in significant jeopardy. It received 150 complaints.
“Our office would like to thank every resident, caregiver and staff person of a long-term care home for having the courage to come forward with their complaints," said Executive Director Craig Thompson. "We are committed to resolving these complaints and amplifying the voices of residents and caregivers as we learn from their experiences."
Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé announced Monday his office has launched an investigation of the oversight of the long-term care system, and Thompson noted his office's investigation will be distinct and focussed on the resident and caregiver experience. It will seek to answer two questions: How did the actions or inactions of individual long-term care homes in response to COVID-19 outbreaks affect the care and healthcare experience of residents, and what were the common system factors that influenced the actions or inactions of individual LTCHs that experienced outbreaks of COVID 19.
Missing lab tests
The minister of health confirmed a CBC story that found 700 positive COVID-19 test results were never forwarded to public health units in Toronto, Peel Region and York Region because the hospital system that performed the tests believed another hospital, whose lab that was analyzing the swabs, was responsible for forwarding the results.
The positive tests date back as far as April, CBC reported.
Elliott said it was important to note that the people were told they could access their results online and may have been told that they needed to self-isolate.
"We are following up now we are doing the contact tracing and case management services to make sure that that has been done and to follow up on contacts to ensure that they are safe and healthy, or perhaps they need to be tested as well," Elliott said. "But this is something that has been dealt with, that all units are aware of the process going forward and this will not be happening again."
The province is providing nearly $3 million from the Ontario Together Fund to three more manufacturers that are retooling to make personal protective equipment, Ford announced Tuesday. He said the province's call for applications to the fund led to over 25,000 submissions, 15,000 of which have led to $200 million in purchases of medical supplies and equipment.
Independent MPP under fire
Randy Hillier, a former PC MPP who now sits as an independent, appeared at a rally against extending the state of emergency in Ontario, prompting a disappointed dad reaction from Ford.
"I'm disappointed in Randy and he should know better, and I'm just shocked that he'd go out there and rally 30 people," the premier said. "That's a shame. So I wouldn't recommend anyone doing that; we're doing so well as a province, we're seeing that trend go down, because of the support of the people. It's just unnecessary, so I'm disappointed."
The rally was small, reportedly consisting of about 30 people.
Hillier has vocally opposed an extension of the state of emergency, calling on the premier to implement any new pandemic measures through the normal legislative process rather than the under the extraordinary powers of the Emergency Management Act.
Hillier has also found himself in hot water over a tweet about at the federal minister of families, children and social development, Ahmed Hussen, and an interview he had given about being racially profiled by police and followed in stores.
— Graham Richardson (@grahamctv) June 2, 2020
The public's building
MPPs voted for the first time from the public gallery as the government advanced a trio of bills.
The legislature received unanimous consent to have MPPs vote on bills from the public gallery above the legislature, so as to maintain social distancing requirements.
Oddly, @OntarioPCParty MPPs are now pouring into the public gallery. Due to physical distancing they cannot take their seats on the floor of the chamber and must observe the proceedings from above. #onpoli pic.twitter.com/TtlZJ578xn
— Robert Benzie (@robertbenzie) June 2, 2020
This followed last week's mini-controversy in which the PCs surprisingly sought unanimous consent for a version of this, and when they did not receive it the doors opened with dozens of Tory members wearing masks to take their normal seats, regardless of social distancing.
NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson expressed his objection to this voting in between votes, telling Speaker Ted Arnott that he felt it was in violation of the agreement the government struck to limit the number of MPPs from each party in the chamber. The NDP and Liberals did not add any more members to vote from the public gallery, and the items passed by a vote count of 54-19.
Before question period began, Opposition Leader Andrea Horwath shared some frustration with how the government is managing the house through the pandemic.
She expressed particular disappointment that the government was prioritizing legislation unrelated to the pandemic, like Bill 184, which proposes to make some evictions easier; Bill 175, which proposes to overhaul home care governance; and Bill 156, which would change the law when it comes to protests on agricultural land.
"It's really disappointing and it's taking advantage of the pandemic," she said.
Horwath calls for more transparency
Horwath has sought to highlight what she sees as the shortcomings of the government's approach to long-term care by telling personal stories, and she was at it again on Tuesday morning.
She was joined in a Zoom press conference by Tammy Coutu, whose 99-year-old grandmother Livia Lostracco died in the Welland long-term care home Royal Rose Place on April 14.
The St. Catharines Standard reported that the last thing Lostracco's daughter heard her say was that she wanted to die.
Royal Rose Place saw its first diagnosis of COVID-19 on March 31. On April 8 Lostracco developed a cough, and on April 10 she was tested for the coronavirus. Coutu said there was a lack of communication with the family on the part of the long-term care home, and they were instructed not to call the home.
Royal Rose Place has been hard hit by the coronavirus, with 16 fatalities. Seventy of 96 residents have been infected, as well as 48 staff members.
"I do not believe that Royal Rose Place or [parent company] Jarlette did everything they could to protect our loved ones."
Horwath said that there needs to be more transparency from the government on which long-term care homes are high risk. She called on the government to release its "red list" of which long-term care homes are particularly high risk. The opposition leader devoted several question period queries to this line of inquiry, but Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton would not commit to disclosing the information and declined to explain why it's not provided.
Ford on racism
Meanwhile, Ford said Canada lacks America's systemic racism and the difference between the two countries is that Canadians "just won't tolerate it."
He had been asked to weigh in on U.S. President Donald Trump's handling of the crisis surrounding the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.
"And thank God, thank God that we're different than the United States, and we don't have the systemic deep roots they have had for years," he said, adding that, in his experience, Canadians get along for the most part.
He also committed to increasing funding to the province's anti-racism initiatives.
"I won't tolerate it for a second — any racism, no matter if it's a black community or any minority community number have never will," he said. "And I'll come down hard on anyone who goes out there and talks about, you know, derogatory remarks about any community. I don't care who it is. I'll come down like a ton of bricks on them because we have the most multicultural province or jurisdiction anywhere probably in North America."