Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath is calling for the resignation of the province’s long-term care minister after a report by the Canadian Armed Forces was released detailing disturbing allegations of horrific conditions inside five of the province’s long-term care homes.
Horwath said Merrilee Fullerton must immediately resign and the province must take steps to ensure more residents in care homes don’t reside under similar conditions.
“In over 20 years of political service, I have never been so outraged, so disgusted, so saddened and so horrified by what I learned today,” Horwath said.
Horwath said that the province must also hand over management of long-term care homes that are in poor states to hospitals.
“For [Ford] to waste another second before public health or a hospital take over those homes and many more homes in Ontario would be unconscionable,” she said.
The premier said everything is currently on the table when it comes to further action by the government.
A report written by members of the Canadian Armed Forces and released Tuesday details disturbing allegations of neglect and mistreatment of residents, including a “blatant disregard” for infection control measures at some long-term care homes amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of the military were called in by the provincial government to assist at Orchard Villa in Pickering, Altamont Care Community in Toronto, Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto, Hawthorne Place in Toronto and Holland Christian Homes’ Grace Manor in Brampton.
“It’s inhumane and it’s abuse,” Horwath said of the allegations.
“I think it is appalling, I think it is disgusting what has happened,” Ford said during an afternoon press conference.
“It is the most heart-wrenching report that I have ever read in my entire life.”
When asked whether anyone in his government would resign over the allegations, Ford didn’t directly address the question.
“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work since we’ve taken office,” he said.
“Again, the system is broken. When COVID hit our country, hit the world, there’s a lot of things that came to the top.”
Ford said he takes “full ownership” but is working to fix a system that has been broken for decades.
Long-Term Care Minister Fullterton said the government is taking immediate action to improve the care in the homes, launching investigations on “specific critical incidents” referred to in the military’s report, and added that the level of care in the five homes cited in the report has since improved.
“The health and safety of residents in long-term care homes is our government’s top priority,” Fullerton said.
“That is why, on April 22, our government formally requested assistance from the Canadian Armed Forces at five long-term care homes in Ontario that were in crisis.
“The findings outlined by the Canadian Armed Forces report are gut-wrenching.”
She said the province has an independent commission set to begin in September which will analyze the long-term care system and provide guidance for systemic changes.
Ford also said the province will be handing over the results of investigations into the military’s report over to police to “look into any possible criminal charges.”
Horwath acknowledged that long-term care problems have persisted in the past, but said the current government hasn’t addressed them.
“The changes haven’t been made to address that need,” she said, adding that an adequate number of inspections have not been conducted in the homes.
Howarth again called for a full public inquiry, which Ford said Tuesday was not off the table despite contradictory statements in recent weeks.
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