“We were late for a pandemic,” she told a 20-minute press conference. “I look back and say why it took so long, so many years have passed, and without addressing long term care when we knew there was an aging population? Our government is addressing the problem and taking responsibility … after so many years of neglect by previous governments. ”
When asked if the province would apologize for the long-term care crisis and for all the residents who have died, she said collectively, as a society, “we need to do some soul-searching” on why it is. It took a pandemic to address capacity and staffing issues.
The government’s response to the crisis “is taking time and it just wasn’t up to the speed of COVID-19.” There are many lessons learned from wave one, second wave and there will be lessons learned from third wave. ”
Watch | CBC News asks Fullerton if she will apologize for the long-term care deaths:
Fullerton said she was now determined to tackle long-term care issues but lacked specifics, answering questions from just three reporters before abruptly leaving.
The province has already started implementing some of the commission’s recommendations, such as increasing personal support staff, implementing more stringent infection protection measures, increasing the capacity of homes and investigation in other areas, she said.
Fullerton suggested changes would come later this week to “improve the quality of life for residents and improve their emotional well-being.” The province will also “move forward” to improve home inspections.
Dr Samir Sinha, a specialist in geriatrics in Ontario, told CBC News that Fullerton’s response did not build confidence that the province would make the systemic changes needed to avert future catastrophe.
“I’m unhappy because we have a long-term care system that has been long neglected and I don’t necessarily hear a response to this government report that is going to give me the impression that things are going to change drastically tomorrow,” Said Sinha.
“I think this government owes an apology [to staff and residents who died and their families] because the recommendations and conclusions of the report indicate that even this government has not acted quickly enough. ”
Fullerton ‘did nothing’, says NDP
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath called on Fullerton to resign or be removed from cabinet following the COVID-19 Long-Term Care Commission report, saying the minister knew older people in care homes nurses were at risk of contracting COVID-19 and thousands more likely to die.
“She knew the residents were dying not only from COVID-19, but from dehydration and neglect – all on their own and in pain,” Horwath said.
“But she didn’t do anything. She let people die, rather than talk or act. “
While previous governments have all privatized and underfunded long-term care, the current government also had a role to play in neglect, Horwath said. For example, Premier Doug Ford’s government cut inspections, failed to provide staff with adequate paid sick days, and left facilities understaffed.
The commission presented its final 322-page report to the provincial government last Friday. The report highlighted the actions and inactions that contributed to the devastation of long-term care during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The commission, which was created last year, concluded that the province had failed to learn from the SARS epidemic in 2003 and that sweeping reforms were needed to protect Ontarians in long-term care in the future.
Watch | Geriatric specialist says Ontario owes long-term care residents an apology:
The report was released just days after a review by the Auditor General of Ontario drew similar conclusions.
Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk said that as COVID-19 began to ravage Ontario’s long-term care homes in March 2020, it was evident that “aggressive measures to prevent, detect and control patient care was needed – and needed quickly – to avoid staggering death rates. “In the LTC community.
That didn’t happen, Lysyk reported.
The first cases of COVID-19 were discovered in four LTC homes on March 17 last year. From March 2020 to the end of the year, 76% of LTC homes in Ontario reported cases of COVID-19 among residents and staff.
To date, 3,918 residents and 11 long-term care providers have died from the disease in Ontario, according to provincial data.
At a press conference last week after Lysyk’s review was published, Fullerton has repeatedly declined to answer questions about whether she shares responsibility for Ontario’s response to COVID-19 in long-term care.
“I’m just one person, it’s an integrated response,” Fullerton said, often looking to blame previous governments for the industry’s failure to adequately limit the deaths of residents and staff.
“Our government is fixing a broken system,” she said.