Long-term care, essential services and public health

By MPP Toby Barrett

My MPP report this week emanates from on-going emails and telephone conversations about two issues – long-term care, and the definition of an essential service.

On March 13, the Ontario government mandated essential visits, only, to long-term care and other congregate care settings. This was one of the first of a series of evolving measures in order to better protect our most vulnerable and stop the spread of COVID-19 in our long-term care (LTC) homes.

On the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, government has developed a robust action plan with key measures to be implemented within hours. In addition, the province has issued a new emergency order restricting LTC staff from working in more than one LTC home, retirement home or health care setting.

The government has introduced more aggressive testing and screening for symptomatic residents and staff and for those who have been in contact with persons confirmed to have the virus.

LTC homes have been provided with surveillance tools, as well as public health and infection control expertise and training, to prevent and control outbreaks like the tragedy at Anson Place.

Specialized teams are available to be deployed from the hospitals; public health and the home care sector, as well as newly recruited front-line staff.

Measures are in place to respond to every escalated request for personal protective equipment (PPE) within 24 hours.

To further support ongoing efforts, the federal government has offered resources that could include personnel and other support from Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the Canadian Armed Forces.

In recent days, I have also been getting letters and emails from area businesses requesting I write a letter authorizing the operation of their business as essential. Just to clarify, neither an MPP nor the provincial government can provide written confirmation nor provide advice on whether a specific business as an essential business.

Business owners, including non-profits and service delivery organizations, should review the list of essential business which are authorized to stay open, determine whether they fit into any of the categories and, if they do, make a business decision as to whether to stay open.

Again it is important to review the list of essential businesses, which are authorized to stay open. The complete regulation is available at www.ontario.ca/laws/regulation/r20119.

If you have further questions about what will be open or impacts to your business or employment call the ‘Stop the Spread Business Information Line’ at 1-888-444-3659.

The supply chain that keeps Ontario running is complex. We all must balance the health and safety of people while trying to ensure the maintenance of critical infrastructure and the operation of supply chains. When the list was released, the plan was to adjust the list as required based on our discussions with stakeholders and provincial health experts. We will continue to do this, and I continue to ask for input on ways to get more sectors back to work.

Regardless of whether we are trying to help those in our LTC homes, or ensuring social distancing by limiting work to that which is essential, the common denominator of all the issues emanating from this pandemic is how best to protect the health and safety of people in Haldimand-Norfolk and across Ontario. 

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk