Ontario has announced further measures to protect health sector workers in the long-term care sector that allow staff deployment on as needed basis when they are available. These enhanced measures will support the province’s extensive efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The new order is under the declaration of emergency dated March 17, and came into effect March 23, 2020. Under this temporary order long-term care homes will be able to respond to, prevent and alleviate an outbreak of COVID-19 by carrying out measures such as:
- Redeploying staff within different locations in (or between) facilities of the health service provider;
- Changing the assignment of work, including assigning non-bargaining unit employees or contractors to perform bargaining unit work;
- Changing the scheduling of work or shift assignments;
- Deferring or cancelling vacations, absences or other leaves, regardless of whether such vacations, absences or leaves are established by statute, regulation, agreement or otherwise;
- Employing extra part-time or temporary staff or contractors, including for the purpose of performing bargaining unit work;
- Using volunteers to perform work, including to perform bargaining unit work; and
- Providing appropriate training or education as needed to staff and volunteers to achieve the purposes of a redeployment plan.
Dr. David Williams, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, has also issued a new directive for long-term care homes under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 that restricts residents from leaving a home for short visits with family and friends.
The order ensures residents do not inadvertently contract COVID-19 while out of the home and spread the virus upon their return. “Our government is taking all the necessary precautions to ensure our loved ones in Ontario’s long-term care homes are safe and secure. Residents who want to go outside will need to remain on the home’s property and maintain safe social distancing from any family and friends who visit them.
Ontario is also increasing long-term care bed availability to ensure homes are able to provide isolation rooms when required as well as long-term beds for people on the long-term care waitlist. In patients in the hospital who no longer require hospital services will benefit from this increased long-term care bed capacity, and their placement into long-term care will also free up hospital beds to treat acute patients.
In addition, Ontario is making necessary adjustments to ensure both resident and families’ wishes are taken into account, and a sufficient number of staff are available to support long-term care home residents. Updated procedures will bring further clarity around admitting, discharging, and readmitting long-term care home residents at a time when homes are trying their best to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among residents, staff and essential visitors.
Lastly, the province is ensuring sufficient nursing and personal support care staff are available to support long-term care home residents. All new nurses and personal support workers hired to help long-term care homes cope with COVID-19 will be screened to ensure they are qualified and present no risk to long-term care home residents.
Long-term care homes continue to restrict non-essential visits and actively screen essential visitors, staff, students, volunteers, residents moving into a long-term care home and residents returning to a long-term care home.