|TORONTO — In order to better protect the most vulnerable and stop the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care homes, the Ontario government has developed a robust action plan with key measures to be implemented within hours. In addition, the province has issued a new emergency order restricting long-term care staff from working in more than one long-term care home, retirement home or health care setting. These measures are being taken on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health.The COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes was announced today by Premier Doug Ford, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health, and Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care.
“We will do everything we can to protect our seniors and most vulnerable citizens because we all know they are most at risk during this pandemic,” said Premier Ford. “Our three-point action plan builds on the measures we have already taken to fortify that iron ring of protection we have placed around our long-term care residents and those who care for them.”
The COVID-19 Action Plan: Long-Term Care Homes adds critical new measures to prevent further outbreaks and deaths from COVID-19 in long-term care homes, including:
Additional measures under development will help to ensure prepa redness and respond to the situation as it evolves, including improving isolation capacity at long-term care homes.
Within less than 48 hours, the government will immediately act to deliver:
“We must continue to act to stop the spread of this virus in our long-term care homes,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. “Nothing is more important than protecting the health and well-being of our loved ones in long-term care, or the front-line heroes who care for them.”
“This new action plan significantly enhances existing efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19 and protect our most vulnerable, including long-term care home residents and the staff who care for them,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “Having significantly expanded the scope and scale of testing and made considerable progress in securing personal protective equipment, Ontario has never been better positioned to deliver on our commitment to support long-term care homes in our shared battle against this virus.”
The government has also issued an emergency order directing long-term care employers to ensure their employees, including registered nurses, registered practical nurses, personal support workers, kitchen and cleaning staff only work in one long-term care home. This means that employees cannot work in multiple locations such as a retirement home or other health care setting.
As a result of this order, long-term care workers who must temporarily give up a job in another care setting are protected from losing their job as they are entitled to an unpaid leave of absence. To help long-term care workers make up these lost wages, the government encourages long-term care employers to offer full-time hours to their part-time employees during the COVID-19 outbreak.
To help employers cover this expense, the government is taking action to ensure long-term care homes have the flexibility and funds to rapidly hire nurses and other front-line staff they need, when they need them. These emergency funds are available to help long-term care homes cover the incremental costs of increasing hours for part-time staff to help those staff limit their work locations.
All long-term care staff continue to be subject to rigorous screening procedures and must follow personal protective equipment guidelines, including wearing surgical masks, gowns, gloves and eye protection while in homes.