Canadian soldiers deployed to long-term care facilities in Ontario have made “some extremely troubling observations” about several nursing homes in which they’ve been serving, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed Tuesday.
Speaking at his daily press conference in Ottawa, Trudeau said the military has shared its findings in a report, which he read in full on Monday. The report was also shared with the provincial government of Ontario over the weekend, he added.
“It is deeply disturbing, there are things in there that are extremely troubling and we need to take action,” Trudeau said.
‘We need to do a better job’
The prime minister said he spoke with Ontario Premier Doug Ford to assure him that the federal government would be there to support them as they deal with this situation.
“We need to do a better job of taking care of our elders in long-term care facilities in Ontario and indeed right across the country,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said he experienced anger, sadness, frustration and grief while reading the report.
“It is extremely troubling,” he added.
Speaking to reporters, Ford said Ontario has launched an investigation into the report’s findings, referring one death to the coroner’s office. Once a coroner’s investigation is complete, he said, it will be up to police to determine if charges are in order “for neglect.”
“It’s heartbreaking, horrific, it’s shocking that this can happen here in Canada. It’s gut-wrenching, and reading those reports is the hardest thing I’ve done as premier,” Ford said at a news conference Tuesday.
“There’s going to be justice. There’s going to be accountability,” a visibly emotional Ford told the families of loved ones in care homes.
Ontario and Quebec ask for more help
Trudeau also announced that Ontario and Quebec have asked the federal government to extend the deployment of Canadian soldiers in long-term care facilities in both provinces.
The Canadian military has deployed 1,789 soldiers to nursing homes to reinforce regular staff overwhelmed by deadly COVID-19 outbreaks in dozens of facilities.
“Over the last weeks, our women and men in uniform have been working to help the most vulnerable Canadians as we deal with this pandemic,” Trudeau said.
Members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are “doing an incredible job,” he added.
“They are serving with distinction for our grandparents, our parents, our elders,” Trudeau said.
39 soldiers got sick with COVID-19
In the meantime, the CAF announced Tuesday that 39 soldiers deployed to long-term care homes in Ontario and Quebec have now become sick with COVID-19.
Twenty-four people have tested positive for the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 in Quebec and 15 in Ontario.
That’s up from 28 cases of the novel coronavirus among those troops less than a week ago.
Military officials said before deploying to long-term care facilities (LTCFs) CAF personnel are trained in a number of areas including: safe movement of patients, protocols for wearing and using personal protective equipment, assisted feeding, and bedside care.
“The CAF understood there was potential for members working in LTCFs to contract COVID-19,” the military said in a statement.
“This was taken into account in our planning processes, given that our personnel would be operating in high-risk environments and working in close proximity to residents who have tested positive or are exhibiting COVID-19 related symptoms.”
The military is taking “appropriate and decisive measures” to mitigate risk to the health, safety and overall wellness of nursing home residents, staff and military personnel, the military added.
“At the first sign of symptoms consistent with COVID-19 the CAF member is placed in isolation for 14 days and/or tested in order to confirm the diagnosis,” the military said. “If required, the member will receive the needed medical and personal support until their health is recovered.”
Contact tracing is also conducted to help limit the spread of the infection, the statement added.
With files from CBC News