The Ontario Health Coalition has demanded the province’s Integrity Commissioner investigate political donations & high-level personnel links between Doug Ford’s right wing “Progressive Conservative” government and the for-profit long term care industry.

This follows the provincial government voting on November 16 to pass the highly controversial Bill 218 which limits legal liability for any harm suffered by residents of long-term care homes and hospitals as a result of Covid 19.

The legislation had been rushed through to a vote with bare minimum scrutiny, and is retrospective to the beginning of the pandemic’s impact on care homes. OHC summed up its impact:

“MPPs just voted for the bill. LTC homes have just been given a carte blanche to be negligent & fail to take reasonable & competent measures to protect residents against COVID-19. Reprehensible.”

Two days before Bill 218 went through, Ford had been warning that Canada’s most populous province was “staring down the barrel of a lockdown” as Covid infection rates rocketed. But CBC quoted one epidemiologist’s retort:

“We’re not looking down the barrel at a lockdown, a lockdown is inevitableThe current situation we’re in right now has been created by the government.… We’ve known we had to build up our testing capacity. We’ve known we needed aggressive contact tracing.”

Why would the government not move aggressively, she asked, by locking down, hiring more contact tracers, pumping resources into public health and offering more financial support to shuttered businesses?

OHC has been campaigning relentlessly for preemptive action to protect residents in long term care homes, hospital patients and staff from the threat of a further peak of infection.

In early October OHC, responding to an avoidable tragedy and delayed intervention in Ottawa explicitly called on the government to take steps including funding and resourcing teams, either from hospitals or in the community “to help long-term care homes with outbreaks that they are not able to stop on their own.”

They also reiterated calls for a minimum care standard of an average of 4-hours per resident per day would ensure funding goes to improving actual care levels, provide adequate staffing, improve retention and improve outcomes.

A month later the Ford government announced that it had adopted the 4-hour target – but would not commit to implementing it until 2024/25, four years and a provincial election away. Two days later the government refused to hear over 50 people who had applied to testify before the Ontario legislature’s standing committee on Bill 218.

Days later it passed the Bill which requires those suing for COVID-19 harms to prove ‘gross negligence’ rather than simple negligence, and redefines “good faith effort” to say that long-term care and retirement homes, among others, just had to make an “honest effort, whether reasonable or not.” Both changes make it harder to sue and easier to defend. It makes these measures retroactive to March 17, 2020, the week that COVID-19 began to spread in long-term care homes, and will therefore have an impact on more than two dozen class action and legal suits that are already underway against for-profit long-term care homes that were responsible for more than half of the COVID-19 deaths in Ontario’s homes in the first wave of the pandemic

The OHC is now demanding a formal investigation, noting that:

This legislation furthers the private interests of the for-profit industry, with whom Conservative Ministers, the Premier and their political staff have close connections and from whom they have received political donations, and is contrary to the interests of families, residents, staff and the public.”

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