Horwath calls for Fullerton’s resignation in wake of LTC report

Minister refuses to apologize, says she plans to fix the issues

Ontario Long-term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton declined to apologize or resign Monday despite a report that found her government’s slow response to COVID-19 contributed to a devastating loss of life in nursing homes.

“I think collectively as a society we need to do some soul searching and understand why, you know, it took a pandemic to address the capacity issues in long-term care (LTC), the staffing issues in long-term care,” Fullerton said. “Our government, and as a Ministry of Long-term Care, we had started urgently as soon as we became a ministry to address that and the wait lists … These were long-standing issues.”

Fullerton said the time has come to move forward, and she plans to fix these issues in LTC including the government processes that moved more slowly than COVID-19.

“Collectively, we can all make a difference — and people’s lives must not have been lost in vain,” she said.

Ontario’s Long-term Care COVID-19 Commission report, released Friday night, said the rate of infection and death in Ontario LTC homes were among the worst in the world.

“Of all COVID-19 deaths in Ontario in 2020, 61% were long-term care residents,” the report says. “By the end of April 2021, 11 staff and almost 4,000 residents in Ontario’s long-term care homes had died.”

The report says the province was unprepared for a pandemic and the LTC sector was in a “poor state” going into the crisis, despite awareness among policy makers and advocates.

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LTC workers — with insufficient training, staffing and protective equipment — reported crying and vomiting from stress as they watched residents die, the report says.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath repeatedly called for Fullerton’s resignation as minister.

“The minister doesn’t want to take responsibility for what the commission described as this government’s failure … that there were no excuses for the deaths that occurred in the second wave,” Horwath said.

Fullerton urged LTC operators to offer counselling to residents and staff, as recommended by the report.

  1. A body is removed from the Eatonville Care Centre long-term facility on The East Mall  in Toronto on Tuesday, April 14, 2020.

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  2. Diane Colangelo visits her 86-year-old mother Patricia through a window at the Orchard Villa long-term care home in Pickering.

    Ontario LTC commission says nursing homes neglected, reform needed

  3. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott.

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The commission’s recommendation that the people who develop LTC homes be separate from those who provide the care in the homes is an idea worth considering, she said.

“I’ve spoken to operators and developers who are interested in pursuing this type of model,” she said.

The minister said her government is already addressing the staffing issue raised in the commission’s report.

aartuso@postmedia.com