A commission examining the impact of COVID-19 on Ontario’s long-term care system has heard the province did not replenish its stockpiles of personal protective equipment in the years leading up to the pandemic.
Ontario’s former deputy minister of health and long-term care, Bob Bell, told the independent commission last month that the province’s supply of personal protective equipment should have been refilled around 2017 or 2018.
Bell, who now chairs an advisory panel for the Revera chain of nursing homes, said there was no conscious decision to let the stockpiles dwindle, but the issue simply fell through the cracks at the time and in the years that followed.
He also said the move to destroy expired N95 masks was, in hindsight, “not a smart decision” because only the elastic posed a potential problem and the masks still had “ventilatory capacity.”
As a result, he said, there was not enough personal protective equipment in the provincial health system when the COVID-19 pandemic hit early last year, and skyrocketing demand made it difficult to obtain once the crisis began.
A spokesperson for the minister of long-term care did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The independent commission, led by the Superior Court’s associate chief justice Frank Marrocco, isn’t open to the public, but transcripts of testimony are later posted online.