Ontario Government Files a Second Emergency Order to Address Challenges Facing Long-Term Care Homes During the COVID-19 Pandemic

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On March 17, 2020, the Ontario Government declared an emergency pursuant to Order in Council 518/2020. With the expanded powers afforded to it under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act, the Ontario Government made several regulatory changes to address the needs of long-term care homes during the pandemic.

Amongst these changes, the Ontario Government filed an emergency Order on March 23, 2020 which addressed work deployment and staffing measures in long-term care homes. A review of these and other changes relating to the long-term care sector were addressed in detail in an earlier Focus Alert.

Following these changes, on March 27, 2020, the Ontario Government implemented a second emergency Order to better facilitate the ability of organizations regulated under the Long-Term Care Homes Act, 2007 (LTCHA) to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. Unless it is extended, this Order will be revoked on April 13, 2020.

 

Streamlined Requirements for Long-Term Care Homes

The second emergency Order applies to entities regulated under the LTCHA, including long-term care homes and municipal homes for the aged. The overarching purpose of this Order is to enable and require these entities to take any reasonably necessary measures to respond to, prevent, and alleviate the outbreak of COVID-19 in long-term care homes.

This Order streamlines the requirements for long-term care homes set out in the LTCHA and Ontario Regulation 79/10, including those relating to the following:

  • Reporting
  • Documentation
  • Staffing
  • Care requirements
  • Admissions, transfers and discharges
  • Licences and management contracts
  • Administration of drugs

For example, long-term care homes are no longer required to report complaints or other such information to the Director except for critical incident reports and mandatory reports required under the LTCHA and Ontario Regulation 79/10.

 

Emergency Order Addresses Staffing Shortages Facing Long-Term Care Homes

Ensuring adequate staffing has been an ongoing concern facing employers in the long-term care sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, and this difficulty is only expected to worsen as the burden on the Ontario healthcare system increases.

To address these concerns, the second emergency Order relaxes staffing requirements such that employers may employ even those individuals who have not met certain orientation, training, and screening requirements set out in the LTCHA and Ontario Regulation 79/10, so long as the employer takes adequate measures to ensure the safety and care of residents. Further, long-term care homes may now fill any staff position with a person who, in their reasonable opinion, has the adequate skills, training and knowledge to perform the duties required of that position.

 

In Our View

Long-term care homes house individuals who are particularly at risk for COVID-19. It is therefore crucial that employers in this sector be afforded the flexibility to adapt their staffing such that they can ensure a safe and secure environment for their residents while continuing to provide care. In this regard, the second emergency Order represents an important step towards enabling the flexibility required for long-term care homes to effectively respond to, prevent and alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, and to ensure they can maintain regular operations moving forward.

 

For further information, please contact Vicky Satta at 613-940-2753Porter Heffernan at 613-940-2764André Champagne at 613-940-2735Lynn Harnden at 613-940-2731Raquel Chisholm at 613-940-2755 or J.D. Sharp at 613-940-2739.