DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard
KAWARTHA LAKES/NORTH DURHAM: With a large number of COVID-19 cases coming from outbreaks at long term care homes, the Ontario provincial government has announced there will be a review of the long term care sector. On Tuesday, May 19th, the Ontario government announced they will launch an independent commission to look into the long term care sector, starting in September. “Over the next several months, our government will be finalizing details of the commission, including terms of reference, membership, leadership of the commission and reporting timelines. We have been clear, the long-term care system in Ontario is broken. We must act quickly and decisively, and that is why an independent non-partisan commission is the best way to conduct a thorough and expedited review,” Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s Minister of Long-Term Care, said in a press release. “As we all take steps to contain this pandemic, the Commission will get down to work and provide us with guidance on how to improve the long-term care system and better protect residents and staff from any future outbreaks.” At a May 19th press conference, Premier Doug Ford explained why the government needs to get to work on this review as soon as possible. “I’m not going to sit here and wait for two and a half [or] three years for an inquiry to give us recommendations. I’m responsible, at the end of the day, to make sure we get the answers,” he said. “We need answers now, and [the commission is] going to be fully transparent.” Premier Ford later echoed the long term care minister in saying the “system is broken.” The City of Kawartha Lakes will also be doing a long term care review. “We certainly are committed, post pandemic, to do a review. The City of Kawartha Lakes is also a member, and Mayor [Andy] Letham is the chair, of the Eastern Ontario Wardens’ Caucus, and one of the focus areas or priorities that is emerging from that eastern group is doing a full review, and informing the provincial government [for] their review of long term care, post pandemic,” CAO Ron Taylor said, during a telephone press conference, on Wednesday, May 20th. “We certainly want to be part of that, looking at it not just from a municipal provisions standpoint, but also looking at the entire system.” The City wants to make sure new long term care building projects and rebuilding projects take into account what has been learned from going through this pandemic. “We want to make sure that lessons learned from this experience are built into those design standards,” CAO Taylor explained.