Opinion: No one in the Ontario government should pretend to be surprised by long-term care conditions

Mohammed Adam, The Ottawa Citizen

The Canadian Forces report on the appalling conditions in five Ontario long-term care homes hit by COVID-19 has been met with expressions of shock and horror from the provincial government. But none of this should come as a surprise. The report makes disturbing reading, but no one in government should pretend they didn’t see this coming. Not if they’ve been paying any attention to what families have been saying over the years, and what numerous reports have documented. The tale of abuse and neglect told by the military has been the sad history of long-term care in Ontario that both Liberal and Conservative governments have ignored for years. It took the military all of 30 days to uncover the horrific conditions, but Ontario governments had decades and chose to see nothing. Premier Doug Ford is right to say he inherited a broken system, but equally true is that he did nothing to make it better. There is blame to go all around on this systemic failure, but now maybe, just maybe, the government will be shamed into real, meaningful action. The truth about this situation is that long-term care just has never been a priority for any Ontario government. When early on the pandemic took 54 lives at two seniors homes in the GTA, Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton rejected calls to take over the homes, saying her ministry doesn’t run homes. Barely a week later, Ford called in the military. A CBC investigation found that the Ford government drastically reduced inspections done in homes with only nine out of 626 homes inspected last year. Which raises the question: how can you find abuses if you don’t conduct thorough inspections?

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