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Reports lay almost 4000 LTC deaths at Ford’s door

John Bell

May 5, 2021
First came Ontario Auditor Bonnie Lysyk’s report on the way the Ford government handled the arrival of COVID-19 in the Long Term Care sector. "The Ministry of Long-Term Care nor the long-term-care sector [were] sufficiently positioned, prepared or equipped to respond to the issues created by the pandemic in an effective and expedient way.”
A second report, compiled by the Long Term Care Commission was equally damning. This report was commissioned by the Ford government under pressure from families of COVID victims, the press and public outrage, and following a report from the Canadian Forces who had been called in as emergency support. Ford dumped the report late on a Friday afternoon, giving his spin doctors a weekend to try and come up with some way to evade responsibility.
Both reports describe a for-profit LTC system designed to make money, but put residents in harm’s way. Residents were housed 3 or 4 to a room, making distancing impossible. Residences had insufficient staffing levels. LTC workers were poorly paid, and driven into part-time jobs – this deprived them of benefits like sick leave, and forced them to work in more than one facility to try to earn a living. This system of exploitation turned staff into carriers of the virus.
Even before the pandemic, cleanliness and care were substandard or inconsistent. LTC workers were allotted only a few minutes to “care” for residents – people who need help with feeding, cleaning and moving about. Workers, often lacking the specialized training needed, complained that they didn’t have enough time to really care for all the people they were responsible for. (Read this report by a LTC worker from 2019) 
Most damning, Lysyk’s report explicitly describes a lack of government inspection and oversight, going back to the previous Liberal regime, but exacerbated by the budget-cutting Doug Ford government.
“Problematic enforcement practice” occurred beginning in the fall of 2018, just months after Ford was elected and Merrilee Fullerton was appointed LTC Minister. Before that date, at least some unannounced, proactive site inspections were carried out. Following that inspections only happened as a result of complaints, at the Ministry’s discretion, and often conducted on the phone.
The reports confirm what experts have been saying: the record of care before and after the pandemic hit was much better in non-profit facilities. It was primarily for-profit operations, like Extendicare, Sienna Senior Living and Chartwell, that had the worst death counts when the pandemic hit. And when Tory officials say they are increasing capacity, they mean they are opening more of the market to private corporations.
That is why public health experts, families of LTC victims, seniors’ groups and others called for all homes to be treated as public health facilities, demands Ford has steadfastly ignored. In fact the biggest Tory LTC reform came in the omnibus Supporting Ontario’s Recovery Act, rammed through the legislature in October 2020. This made it much harder for the families of LTC COVID victims to sue or hold LTC corporations accountable. 
Fullerton full of shit
The Ford government seems to have put more effort into controlling the news of the disaster that trying to prevent the spread. They are doing all they can to deflect blame and attention, blaming the federal government, blaming foreigners, blaming the previous Liberal provincial government and blaming the ONDP which has not held office since 1995.
It is fair to place a large part of the blame on the McGuinty and Wynne Liberal governments. Both reports acknowledge this timeline.
But the blame game took a bizarre turn when LTC Minister Merrilee Fullerton rose in the legislature to attack NDP leader Andrea Horwath. She said Horwath was to blame for the disaster because she and the NDP had never cared about LTC, and never even uttered the words. “Look in Hansard,” she roared.
Bad idea. Even a quick look in the parliamentary records shows that Horwath and NDP MPPs have raised the issue of underfunding and understaffing in LTC facilities dozens of times. The NDP has even partnered with the Ontario Federation of Labour in a campaign to stop privatization of LTC homes.
When challenged for her pretzel logic and outright lies, Fullerton let her privilege show: “I will not be spoken to that way,” she huffed.
She kept up the front when questioned by reporters. She blamed everyone in sight while refusing to take any responsibility personally or for her government.
“We were overdue for a pandemic,” she said. She told reporters what a caring person she is, took only 3 questions, turned on her heels and left.
It is clear that desperate Tories, like full-of-shit Fullerton, will do anything to deflect from the facts: their handling of the pandemic and their desperation to keep big business open has been disastrous, even murderous. Look for a barrage of disinformation about closing borders and blaming Trudeau for not addressing issues that are provincial jurisdiction.
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