Of Ontario long-term care the minister pulled out critics trying to hold her accountable after two independent reports found the province was slow to respond to the deadly threat of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
For the second day in a row, Merrilee Fullerton refused to respond when she knew the elderly were dying from neglect and dehydration in staff-deficient settings, and dismissed calls to apologize for the nearly 4,000 deaths in long-term care. .
It was March a year ago when Fullerton stood with Prime Minister Doug Ford and promised an “iron ring” of protection around nursing homes, “something we all know never happened,” said New Democrat leader Andrea Horwath. during a tense exchange with Fullerton in the legislature Tuesday A few weeks later, in mid-April last year, the province called the Canadian Armed Forces medical teams to help the long-term care homes hit hardest. They arrived at the end of the month.
“She actually said in this House that they were moving fast and responsibly, literally while the Canadian Armed Forces were finding people dying from negligence,” Horwath said of a finding Friday. Long-Term Care Commission Report COVID-19 that 26 residents in a house died of water shortages, not the virus.
Fullerton avoided a question when he knew about it, calling the NDP leader’s criticisms “unfounded” and “bordering on the indecent.”
“Any loss of life in these circumstances during this pandemic has been tragic,” Fullerton said, adding that COVID-19 was a “rapid threat,” and vowed to improve conditions after decades of underinvestment in nursing homes.
“This minister tried to save the Ford government and save its reputation instead of saving people in long-term care,” Horwath said. “How can anyone expect this minister to fix things when she can not even admit her mistakes?”
A clearly angry Fullerton turned back, blaming Horwath – whose party has not been in power since 1995 and who often urged the previous Liberal government to improve care and staffing hours in nursing homes – for not done enough to defend the cause.
“Look at your failure. “I was allowed to take part in a devastating 15-year neglect,” Fullerton told Liberal Rule. “I will not speak that way from the Leader of the Opposition, who neglected this sector.”
Horwath later told reporters that the minister has “an obligation to ask questions, to explain to the public her role in allowing 4,000 seniors to lose their lives in appalling conditions in long-term care”.
“That’s why we are calling for her resignation.”
Fullerton – who last week drew attention to say “We did not light the fire” in long-term care – would not receive questions from the media on Tuesday.
Liberal House leader John Fraser blamed the prime minister, who was expected to emerge from self-isolation on Tuesday night after being exposed to COVID-19 by an infected employee, for his silence on the commission report.
It was the second of two reports last week – the other was from Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk – which found a slow response and the lack of inspections in the nursing home by the Ford government exacerbated the death toll in long-term care, in addition to years of neglect by previous administrations.
“For the prime minister not to be able to respond to this report, and for the minister … not to take any responsibility whatever it is, is unfair to those families” who lost their loved ones in long-term care, Fraser said.
Fullerton said the previous Liberal government opened only 611 new nursing home beds during its last seven years in office, contributing to a waiting list that has grown to 38,000 people.
She told MPAs that the government is reviewing 85 recommendations made by the long-term care commission. The government is continuing with some recommendations, including improving infection prevention and control and shifting to four hours of day care for residents by 2025 through the employment of thousands of nurses and personal care workers, she said.
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“We are taking responsibility for a broken system,” Fullerton said.
But the commission and opposition parties said those improvements in day care, from 2.75 hours now, need to be made faster because nursing homes remain understaffed and Ontario needs to be ready for the next pandemic or major outbreak of infectious disease. .
Guardian Vivian Stamatopoulos’ lawyer said the situation in the nursing homes would be even worse if the COVID-19 vaccine were not introduced and that it would be difficult to attract and retain staff until wages improved. Fullerton has not pledged a timeline for wage increases and temporary increases for personal support workers expire at the end of June.
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