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ONTARIO: Long-term care minister responds to auditor general's report on problems in nursing homes

Fullerton said Ontario is investing billions of dollars to improve long term care homes
2020-05-28 Merrilee Fullerton
Ontario's Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton.

Ontario's Minister of Long-Term Care has deflected some of the criticism that came earlier today from the Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk by saying the problems that occurred in long-term care homes during the pandemic were "decades in the making" and "a tragic result of years of neglect and underfunding" in that sector.

Minister Merrilee Fullerton was referring to the fact that Ontario's Liberal Party was in power from 2003 through to 2018, a time when many of the faults identified in the auditor's report took place.

Earlier today, Lysyk released details of an intense study into the government's response to the many problems in long-term care homes that arose during the pandemic that began 14 months ago.

Lysyk said many of the problems that arose in long-term care homes were the result of the government's poor response.  

"Unfortunately, neither the Ministry of Long-Term Care, nor the long-term-care sector was sufficiently positioned, prepared or equipped to respond to the issues created by the pandemic in an effective and expedient way," Lysyk wrote in her report.

"By late March 2020, when COVID-19 had begun its ravage of long-term-care homes, it became blatantly obvious that aggressive infection prevention, detection and patient care actions were needed — and needed quickly — to prevent staggering death rates from becoming the norm across Ontario’s entire long-term-care community," Lysyk continued.

In responding to the report, Fullerton's ministry issued a news release saying Ontario's Conservative government has done more to resolve long-term care issues than other administrations.

"From the earliest stages through to the latest wave of COVID-19, our government has taken extensive, ongoing measures to protect the health, safety and well-being of long-term care residents, staff and their families," said Fullerton in the news release.

She added that the Auditor General’s recommendations "will inform the work that is already underway" to modernize and improve Ontario’s long-term care sector.

"We are investing up to $4.9 billion over four years to create more than 27,000 new positions for personal support workers, registered nurses and registered practical nurses in long-term care," said Fullerton. 

"This will allow us to deliver on our commitment to increase the hours of daily direct care to an average of four hours per day for each long-term care resident. This is an ambitious commitment. It will make Ontario the leader in Canada," Fullerton continued. 

The ministry release also reported that Ontario is now working toward a $2.6 billion investment toward the goal of creating 30,000 new long-term care spaces in the next decade. The release also said nearly $250 million would be spent to improve living conditions with renovations and new air conditioning to improve resident comfort.