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Ontario ombud to investigate long-term care

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TORONTO — Ontario’s ombudsman launched an investigation Monday into the province’s pandemic oversight of long-term care homes, where more than 1,600 residents and seven staff members have died of COVID-19.

Ombudsman Paul Dube said he is starting the investigation not because of receiving complaints, which is the usual process for his office, but because of what he read in a recent military report on five long-term care homes in Ontario.

“The Canadian Armed Forces report painted a stunning portrait of the situation in long-term care during this crisis,” Dube said in a statement.

“Our investigation will look at the systemic issues that led to it, and will make constructive recommendations for corrective action.”

The investigation will focus on whether the government oversight has been adequate to ensure the safety of residents and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

According to the Ministry of Long-Term Care, 1,648 residents and seven staff members have died amid COVID-19 outbreaks in the facilities.

Ontario called in military assistance for five homes dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks in April. Members said they observed cockroach infestations, aggressive feeding that caused choking, bleeding infections, and residents crying for help for hours.

Investigators with the ombudsman’s office will look at aspects of the system including complaint handling, emergency planning, data collection, infection and death rates and communication with long-term care home residents, staff and the public.

Premier Doug Ford said he welcomes the investigation.

“I need answers,” he said. “I want answers. We need to get this fixed and we’re going to get this fixed.”

Ford has also said Ontario has launched a “full investigation” into the allegations in the military report and will share the results with police so they can look into any possible criminal charges.

Meanwhile, the government expanded on an announcement from the weekend that Ontario is extending its COVID-19 residential electricity rate relief for five months, though the fixed price will be going up by nearly three cents per kilowatt hour.

Hydro rates will now be a flat 12.8 cents per kilowatt hour, regardless of the time of day - higher than the 10.1-cent off-peak rate that has been charged all day since electricity relief was introduced on March 24.

That flat rate will be in effect until Oct. 31, and as of November, customers will be able to either choose to stick with a time-of-use plan or tiered pricing, which sets one rate up to a certain level of consumption.

Ontario reported 404 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, and 10 more deaths.

That brings the province to a total of 28,263 cases - an increase of 1.5 per cent over the previous day.

The total includes 2,276 deaths and 22,153 cases that have been resolved.

Hospitalizations and ventilations remained steady, but the number of patients in intensive care increased. The number of tests completed in the previous day dropped to 14,379, down from a high of over 20,000 reported Saturday. The amount tends to fall after a weekend.

The Ministry of Long-Term Care reports 112 outbreaks of COVID-19 in those facilities, down from 114 on Sunday.

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