Government ministries being investigated for handling of long-term care during COVID-19
Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dube has launched an investigation into the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to long-term care facilities by the province's Ministry of Long-Term Care and Ministry of Health.
The investigation will focus on whether the ministries' oversite of long-term care facilities during the pandemic has been sufficient to ensure both residents and staff can remain safe.
Dube said he chose to exercise his authority and launch the investigation of his own volition after a disturbing report from Canadian military personnel regarding the shocking conditions in five Ontario facilities.
“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,” Dube said. “Determining the root causes of administrative dysfunction and recommending practical solutions is what we do.”
Investigators with the Special Ombudsman Response Team will review the Ministries’ standards and policies for long-term care homes during the pandemic, as well as the adequacy of oversight mechanisms to ensure compliance.
The investigation will also delve into complaint handling, inspections carried out by the Ministry of Long-Term Care, emergency planning, steps taken to support long-term care homes during the pandemic, collection of data on coronavirus cases, rates of infection and deaths in long-term care, and communication with long-term care home residents, staff, and the public.
“The pandemic has strained public services immensely, but also demonstrated how vital they are,” Dube said. “Never has it been more important to ensure that these systems are working as they should. This is where we can help, as an independent, impartial expert in administrative systems. We are uniquely suited to investigate systemic governance issues and to propose solutions that enhance transparency, accountability, and fairness.”
According to Dube, both Ministries were given formal notice of the investigation June 1. Additionally, due to the unusual circumstances associated with the pandemic, there is no set timeframe for when the investigation will be completed.
“My entire office and I are also working remotely, and we recognize that these ministries in particular are facing significant challenges during this time,” Dube said. “I am confident that our long expertise in working with public sector bodies to effect constructive change will benefit them and Ontarians in the long run.”
According to the data, 81 percent of the 2,276 coronavirus deaths in Ontario occurred to those staying in long-term care facilities.
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