Today, (September 29), the Ontario government announced that it will be investing in the protection of seniors amid the second wave of COVID-19.
Close to $540 million will be invested to protect residents, caregivers and staff in long-term care homes from possible future surges and waves of COVID-19.
The funding is part of the province’s COVID-19 fall preparedness plan, Keeping Ontarians Safe: Preparing for Future Waves of COVID-19.
Today’s announcement was made by Premier Doug Ford, Dr. Merillee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care, and Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.
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“We have a responsibility to protect our most vulnerable, while ensuring they continue to have access to the best medical staff and their caregivers,” said Premier Ford.
“We are taking every step possible to fortify that iron ring of protection around our long-term care homes and that includes updating the visitor policy. I encourage family members to identify as essential caregivers at the homes, so they can continue to visit and support both the physical and mental well-being of their loved ones and all the residents.”
The government is enabling necessary measures to improve infection prevention and control, shoring up personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiles and building a strong health care workforce as part of the Fall Preparedness Plan,
The new investments include $405 million to help homes with operating pressures related to COVID-19, $61.4 million for minor capital repairs and renovations in homes to improve infection prevention and control, $40 million to support homes that have been impacted by the changes in occupancy numbers and $30 million to allow long-term care homes to hire more infection prevention and control staffing.
Additionally, $2.8 million will be invested to extend the High Wage Transition Fund to ensure that gaps in long-term care staffing can continue to be addressed during the pandemic and provide all long-term care homes with access to up to eight weeks of supply of PPE.
The government continues to look at solutions to provide more care where and when people require it.
They will also be making an investment to help people on the long-term care waitlist stay in their own homes longer, through the skills of community paramedics and by working with municipal partners.
“COVID-19 demands a culture of continuous learning: the more we learn, the better we can plan and prepare for future waves,” said Minister Fullerton.
“Our government is committed to applying what we have learned during this outbreak to build and strengthen a long-term care system that works in the best interests of our residents and the people who work so hard to keep them safe.”
Minister Elliott said, “Protecting the health and safety of Ontarians, especially those who are at higher-risk like seniors and residents living in long-term care homes, is our top priority.”
“The actions our government is taking to protect our loved ones along with the critical investments we are making to strengthen the long-term care sector will ensure our homes are prepared for the second wave of COVID-19 and the upcoming flu season,” Minister Elliott added.
Ontario will also be making changes to its visitor policy to long-term care homes, to keep residents safe and prevent further spread of COVID-19.
Effective Monday, October 5, 2020, visitors to long-term care homes in these areas will be restricted to staff and essential visitors only, which includes essential caregivers.
Residents and substitute decision-makers are encouraged to identify up to two individuals as essential caregivers to ensure the continuation of visits and to support the physical and mental well-being of residents.
Essential caregivers must continue to follow all public health measures, including having a negative COVID-19 test within two weeks of a visit, passing active screening at the home, wearing a mask and additional PPE as directed and practicing frequent handwashing.
The province’s COVID-19 fall preparedness plan will help the province quickly identify, prevent and respond to any scenario in order to protect communities.
The Keeping Ontarians Safe plan will recruit, retain, train and support health care workers, while also continuing to engage families and caregivers, implement the largest flu immunization campaign in Ontario’s history and maintain strong public health measures, including the continued expansion of testing and case and contact management.
Additionally, it will quickly identify, manage and prevent COVID-19 outbreaks, accelerate efforts to reduce health service backlogs and prepare for surges in COVID-19 cases.