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Ontario to stop caregivers from working at multiple long-term care homes as COVID-19 spreads like ‘wildfire’

Ontario Premier Doug Ford will issue an emergency order prohibiting employees from working at multiple long-term care facilities in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Ford made the announcement at a news conference Tuesday, where he said long-term care homes are quickly turning into the front lines in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

“We’re dealing with a wildfire at our long-term care homes right now,” Ford said Tuesday, adding the order would take effect Tuesday night. 

Of the province’s 626 long-term facilities, 114 are currently reporting infections, representing about 14 per cent of all such homes, the premier said.

Ontario’s emergency order lags weeks behind that of British Columbia, which made the move to limit caregivers from working at multiple long-term care homes after it it became clear that outbreaks were linked to employees working at more than one site.

Until now, Ontario has stopped short of mandating such a move, with the provincial government issuing guidance last month aimed at long-term care homes, stating that “employers should work with employees to limit the number of different work locations that employees are working at, to minimize risk to patients of exposure to COVID-19.”

As part of the move, Ford said Ontario will cover the funding to bring in additional staffing into homes where outbreaks are occurring and will cover the costs of increasing hours for part-time staff.

Ford also said Tuesday that the province will also be launching an action plan that will see available resources within Ontario’s health system redeployed to homes experiencing outbreaks.

Whereas hospitals in the province have not seen the surges that were feared in terms of numbers of infected patients, long-term care homes are seeing major pressures, Ford said. For that reason, hospital workers will be reallocated to homes where possible to help combat the spread.

Asked Monday if she felt limiting the number of homes where a long-term care worker could work would make a difference at this point in the pandemic, associate medical officer of health Dr. Barbara Yaffe said she believed it could.

Ford had a similar message Tuesday, saying he believed it wasn’t too late.

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