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Ontario had no plan to address pandemic or protect residents in long-term care, final commission report says

Ontario was not prepared to address a pandemic and had no plan to protect residents in long-term care thanks to years of neglect, according to a final report from an independent commission released Friday evening.

The province's Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission submitted its final 322-page report to the provincial government Friday night, which highlighted the actions and inactions that contributed to the devastation in long-term care during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

It found that the province failed to learn lessons from the SARS epidemic in 2003 and that sweeping reforms are needed to protect Ontario's vulnerable residents in the future.

"This investigation has shown that long-standing weaknesses in the long-term care sector figured prominently in the death and devastation COVID-19 inflicted on residents, their loved ones and the staff who care for them."

The report looked into the shortcomings of the government's response, the best practices and promising ideas to improve long-term care and presented its final recommendations.

The commission said poor facility design and resident overcrowding heightened sickness and death in the nursing homes, with nearly 4,000 residents and 11 staff dying of COVID-19 by the end of April.

It said a severe staffing shortage and a workforce poorly trained in infection control measures compounded the situation.

The report said new facilities need to be built to address the needs of the province's aging population and adds that the government also needs to reconsider how those nursing homes are managed, with a focus on quality care.

"It is plain and obvious that Ontario must develop, implement, and sustain long-term solutions for taking care of its elderly and preparing for a future pandemic."

The commission interviewed more than 700 people and reviewed thousands of documents since it began work last summer.

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