The Ontario government launched an independent commission into COVID-19 and long-term care. Three commissioners will investigate how COVID-19 spread within long-term care homes, how residents, staff, and families were impacted, and the adequacy of measures taken by the province and other parties to prevent, isolate and contain the virus. The commission will also provide the government with guidance on how to better protect long-term care home residents and staff from any future outbreaks.
Details were provided today by Premier Doug Ford and Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.
"As Premier, I made a commitment to our long-term care residents and their families that there would be accountability and justice in the broken system we inherited," said Premier Ford. "Today, we are delivering on that promise by moving forward with a transparent, independent review of our long-term care system. We will do whatever it takes to ensure every senior in the province has a safe and comfortable place to call home."
Three commissioners have been appointed for the expertise and experience they bring to addressing the commission's mandate:
Associate Chief Justice Frank N. Marrocco (Chair) ― appointed to the Superior Court of Justice in 2005 and holds a distinguished career practising criminal law and civil litigation law spanning 33 years.
Angela Coke ― served as a former senior executive of the Ontario Public Service where she spent more than 27 years committed to the transformation of government operations, consumer protection reform, and the development of a strong professional public service.
Dr. Jack Kitts ― served as President and CEO of The Ottawa Hospital from February 2002 until his retirement in June 2020. He is known nationally for his focus and expertise in patient experience, performance measurement and physician engagement.
This independent commission has the power to conduct an investigation, including compelling persons to give or produce evidence, issuing summons, and holding public meetings. The commission's findings are delivered within the timeframes set out by the Minister of Long-Term Care in the Terms of Reference, allowing investigations to be completed in months, rather than years. The commissioners are expected to deliver their final report by April 2021.
"The people of Ontario deserve a timely, transparent and non-partisan investigation," said Minister Fullerton. "That is why our government is launching this independent commission to help us identify ways to prevent the future spread of disease in Ontario's long-term care homes. I look forward to receiving their report and recommendations to make Ontario's long-term care homes a better place for our most vulnerable seniors to live and receive the care they deserve."
While the work of the commissioners is underway, Ontario will continue to move forward with system improvements, including implementing the recommendations of the Public Inquiry into Long-Term Care Homes, acting on essential learnings from COVID-19, and supporting the accelerated development of new, modern long-term care beds.
The Ontario government has committed to investing a historic $1.75 billion to create new and redevelop existing long-term care beds. The province is also updating design standards to include air conditioning for any new and renovated homes, beginning immediately.
The Ontario government recently announced a new funding model, to make it more attractive for operators to build long-term care homes and bring aging homes up to modern design standards — providing seniors with the quality care they deserve.
Nearly 78,000 Ontario residents currently live in 626 long-term care homes across the province. More than 38,000 people are on the waitlist to access a long-term care bed (as of March 2020).
Previous public inquiries, such as the Public Inquiry into Long-Term Care Homes, took two years to complete.
In 2003, the Ontario government appointed an independent commission to investigate the introduction and spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) under the Health Protection and Promotion Act. The commission interviewed 600 people and held six days of public hearings.
The COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes outlines the steps that the government is taking to protect residents and staff in long-term care homes.
Visit Ontario's website to learn more about how the province continues to protect Ontarians from COVID-19.
For public inquiries, call ServiceOntario, INFOline at 1-866-532-3161 (Toll-free in Ontario only).