Ontario increasing protection for long-term care residents
At an April 15 press conference, Ontario Premier Doug Ford discussed additional measures to help cope with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, with an announcement that the Ontario government has launched a new action plan and emergency order to protect those in long-term care homes.
The COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes was announced today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.
With the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, the government announced that this action plan aims to protect the most vulnerable in long-term care homes and the key measures of this plan will be implemented today (April 15).
“We will do everything we can to protect our seniors and most vulnerable citizens because we all know they are most at risk during this pandemic,” said Premier Ford.
“Our three-point action plan builds on the measures we have already taken to fortify that iron ring of protection we have placed around our long-term care residents and those who care for them.”
The COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes will add important measures to prevent further outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care homes.
These measures will include aggressive testing, screening and surveillance, as well as managing outbreaks and the spread of the disease.
Additionally, it will include growing the long-term care workforce. These measures will ensure the province is prepared to respond to the situation as it evolves.
Within less than 48 hours, the government will immediately act to deliver enhanced testing and surveillance for symptomatic residents and staff and those in contact with persons confirmed to have COVID-19, testing of asymptomatic residents and staff in select homes across the province to better understand how COVID-19 is spreading and risk and capacity assessments for all homes.
They will also work with Ontario Health, the Ontario Hospital Association and public health units to assemble infection control and preventions teams and additional supports, enhance guidance on personal protective equipment and continued priority distribution to homes, enhance training and education to support staff working in outbreak situations; and redeploy hospital and home care resources into homes.
“We must continue to act to stop the spread of this virus in our long-term care homes,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.
“Nothing is more important than protecting the health and well-being of our loved ones in long-term care, or the front-line heroes who care for them.”
“We are fighting with every single tool that we have and we are creating new tools,” added Fullerton. “We have to take new measures which is exactly what we're doing today.”
The government has also issued an emergency order directing long-term care employers to ensure their employees, including registered nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers, kitchen and cleaning staff only work in one long-term care home.
This means that it will restrict long-term care staff from working in more than one long-term care home, retirement home or health care setting.
Although this means that employees cannot work in multiple locations, long-term care workers who must temporarily give up a job are protected from losing their job and are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence and the government is encouraging long-term care employers to offer full-time hours to part-time employees to help workers make up for any lost wages.
“This new action plan significantly enhances existing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable, including long-term care home residents and the staff who care for them,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
“Having significantly expanded the scope and scale of testing and made considerable progress in securing personal protective equipment, Ontario has never been better positioned to deliver on our commitment to support long-term care homes in our shared battle against this virus.”
The government is also taking action to ensure long-term care homes have the flexibility and funds to hire nurses and other front-line staff they need when they need them.
“We owe it to our most vulnerable, to their families and loved ones, to fight this terrible virus until the end,” said Ford.
“We will stop at nothing to protect those who cannot protect themselves.”
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