It was the first time we have seen Premier Doug Ford tear up in his daily media briefings.

Ford was being asked about whether the province has failed to provide proper care to residents of long-term care homes.  Ford got emotional and his voice cracked when he spoke about residents and families in long-term care homes including his wife Carla’s mother, “My heart breaks for them, my family is going through it along with 70,000 families and it is very difficult.  I recognize the system is broken and we will fix it.”  He said right now the priority has to be protecting the people in the homes through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Yesterday, the province formally requested assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces and Public Health Canada to support staff at homes, particularly five priority facilities in the province. Prime Minister Trudeau announced that the request has been approved.

There have been close to 500 deaths in Ontario’s long-term care homes.

Meanwhile, a new COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People was unveiled today.  It will address challenges and issues that are particular to people living in congregate settings like shelters for survivors of gender-based violence, children’s residential setting, and residential homes supporting vulnerable Indigenous individuals and families.

“The plan we are announcing today will build on and support the critical work that is currently being carried out each and every day by our frontline heroes to care for our most vulnerable citizens,” said Premier Ford. “These people are most at risk during this pandemic and that’s why we are helping these organizations immediately ramp up screening and testing, deploy more protective masks and gloves, and put more boots on the ground in the fight against COVID-19.”

The COVID-19 Action Plan for Vulnerable People focuses on three specific areas:

  • Enhanced Screening and Reduced Exposure to Prevent Spread
    • Enhancing the screening of visitors, staff, and residents on sites, as well as restricting non-essential visitors.
    • Providing masks to staff working in congregate care settings and providing training on the use of personal protective equipment in the event of an outbreak.
  • Infection Control: Managing Outbreaks and Limiting Spread
    • Enhancing testing of symptomatic staff and clients to identify the need for isolation and additional infection control measures on-site.
    • Planning to limit staff from working at more than one congregate care setting during an outbreak, specifically in developmental services, intervenor services, violence against women, and anti-human trafficking settings.
    • Providing additional training and support for high-risk settings dealing with an outbreak, including guidance on how to isolate clients.
  • Sustaining Staffing and Managing Staff Shortages
    • Working with organizations to promote workforce stability and capacity in high-risk settings.