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Long-term care minister accused of trying to 'scapegoat' local health officials

The Minister of Long-Term Care suggested Monday she would leave it up to local Medical Officers of Health to decide if they want to add more COVID-19 restrictions to long-term care homes
2020-05-28 Merrilee Fullerton

Ontario's long-term care minister appears to be suggesting a major policy shift as the province continues to face pressure to tighten restrictions on long-term care homes in red-control zones.

During a morning news conference, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton suggested local Medical Officers of Health can choose to add more COVID-19 restrictions on long-term care homes. Fullerton also appeared to suggest local health units can respond more swiftly to local long-term care concerns than her ministry can.

"Now we have a long-term care minister that's suggesting that, somehow, it's not this government's job to help long-term care homes to respond - and that's not true," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. 

"So she can't pass the buck onto the local public health units," Horwath added. "It was her failure and her government's failure to protect people in long-term care."

Horwath said she's horrified to see the same issues from the first wave replaying in the second.

"I'm just horrified to see the same thing happening again," she said. "So to suggest, as she did, that they've learned their lesson - they haven't."

The Doug Ford government has faced heavy criticism of late as infection rates continue to rise in the long-term care system.

The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario has gone as far as to request an immediate 28-day lock down of red-control zones, adding current restrictions are not strong enough and Fullerton should have known they would lead to more deaths.

Horwath, meantime, has renewed her call for Fullerton to resign or be fired.

"If she wants something to be happening in long-term care she's the minister, it's her responsibility," said Horwath. "Everything that's happened in long-term care sits at the feet of this minister and Mr. Ford and that's why I've called for her resignation a number of times and I've called on Mr. Ford to fire her."

"Because obviously she's not doing her job and now she's suggesting that her job is actually the job of long-term care homes or of public health units in communities - and it's not the case."

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