Response includes increased testing, COVID-19 SWAT teams, and additional PPE
April 22, 2020 1:45 P.M. Office of the Premier
TORONTO — The Ontario government is making progress on the implementation of the COVID-19 Action Plan for Protecting Long-Term Care Homes to help stop and contain the spread of COVID-19 in the province's long-term care homes. The government has introduced more aggressive testing, screening, and surveillance, deployed specialized teams from hospitals, public health and the home care sector, recruited additional frontline staff, and increased personal protective equipment.
Today's update was provided by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Heath, and Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.
"Within 48 hours of launching our Action Plan, we sent in reinforcements to further protect our most vulnerable seniors and those who care for them in our long-term care homes," said Premier Ford. "Today, we are making progress against this ruthless disease, but I want to emphasize that every option is on the table to get our long-term care homes what they need to stop the spread. That is why we intend to make a formal request for assistance from the federal government."
Since the Action Plan was announced, the government has worked swiftly and decisively to provide targeted, on-the-ground support to long-term care homes through the following measures:
- Assisting 20 long-term care homes, which were previously experiencing outbreaks, to become now outbreak-free.
- Increasing testing on both symptomatic and asymptomatic staff and residents. To date, approximately 11,600 tests have been completed amongst residents in long-term care.
- Conducting additional testing of asymptomatic residents and staff outside of the testing guidance at 21 long-term care homes, to help understand the spread of the virus.
- Setting up a 24/7 Long-Term Care COVID-19 Response Team, which has already helped more than 30 homes by putting in place infection control protocols, resolving staffing issues, and fulfilling personal protective equipment needs.
- Launching 31 Infection Prevention and Control interventions, which are currently in progress, with six assessments already completed.
- Continuing to identify critical 24-, 48-, and 72-hour help that homes need by matching qualified people and volunteers who can help with duties, including nursing support and cleaning.
- Responding to every escalated request for personal protective equipment from long-term care homes within 24 hours through the following measures:
- A four-step process is in place to ensure an optimized regional distribution and redistribution when supplies are urgently needed.
- Critical supply needs are escalated for provincial action.
- Daily distribution of supply from provincial warehouses to regional sites.
- Daily monitoring of and reporting against performance target of 100 per cent of critical need requests being shipped within 24 hours.
- Working with hospitals across the province to deploy additional staffing and infection prevention controls in long-term care homes:
- In Toronto alone, five hospitals (Michael Garron Hospital, Women's College, North York General, Unity Health Toronto and Mount Sinai Hospital) have been engaged to support approximately 40 long-term care homes in the city.
- Other hospital partners and health partners have stepped up to help their local homes, including Trillium Health Partners, Halton Healthcare, Grand River, Cambridge Memorial Hospital, and the Ottawa Hospital.
- More than 70 volunteers, including registered nurses, social workers, administration and medical doctors, have been recruited from the University Health Network to assist long-term care homes in the Greater Toronto Area.
- Providing over 400 job matches for long-term care homes through the province's Health Workforce Matching Portal, with over half of Ontario's long-term care homes now using the portal.
To further support ongoing efforts to fight COVID-19 in Ontario's long-term care homes, the federal government has offered resources that could include personnel and other supports from Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Canadian Armed Forces. This support would be deployed to five priority long-term care homes as one element of the government's robust Action Plan. The Ontario government will be making a formal request to access those extra reinforcements today.
The government continues to explore additional measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and keep vulnerable people safe, including building isolation capacity at long-term care homes.
"We must continue to act swiftly and decisively to keep our loved ones in long-term care safe, as well as their caregivers," said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. "Our long-term care homes continue to be the front-lines of this pandemic and we must continue to work around the clock to assist all our dedicated staff during this crisis."