Did Ontario really need to call in the military for COVID-19 in

Even as new infections of COVID-19 decline in the general public, the crisis caused by the virus continues in Ontario nursing homes. The virus is especially deadly for seniors and people with pre-existing conditions, and the province’s long-term care system has long suffered from problems with underfunding and understaffing.

At least 190 long-term care facilities have declared outbreaks, with at least 2,614 cases confirmed in residents and 835 dead, the province reported Thursday. At least 1,430 long-term care staff in Ontario have also tested positive for COVID-19.

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario says it assembled a list about 200 nurses who were ready and willing to help in long-term care, but the Ontario government waited weeks to deploy them.

Meanwhile, long-term care homes are still understaffed, the Ontario Health Coalition said in a press release Thursday.

“While measures that have been announced by the provincial government are welcome and sincerely appreciated, still there remains a dangerous disconnect,” the statement said.

The Ontario Long-Term Care Association, which represents nearly 70 per cent of the province’s private, not-for-profit, charitable, and municipal long-term care homes, didn’t directly answer when asked if the government’s request for military help was essential for its members.

“Ontario’s long-term care homes have been clear about the longstanding challenges they face and the concrete actions that must be taken by government to sustain exceptional care for our most vulnerable with increasingly complex needs,” the association said in a statement.

“With COVID-19, the staffing crisis has been exacerbated, but through open and ongoing conversations with the provincial government, the OLTCA has moved forward significant changes that directly support the front lines.”

Doris Grinspun, the CEO of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, says the province has enough nurses to tackle COVID-19 in long-term care and may not have needed military aid. Photo courtesy RNAO

‘I don’t know if they considered this before they called the army’

Recruiting health-care workers to join the fight against COVID-19 has been a key aspect of government response to the virus. Calls for help have drawn some out of retirement, while others who had switched careers ⁠— like former Liberal cabinet minister Dr. Jane Philpott ⁠— are now back in health-care work.

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