Protecting Residents and Staff in Long-Term Care Homes

Despite the best efforts to mitigate outbreaks, COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on those who work and reside in long-term care homes, nursing homes, and other institutions where our most vulnerable receive care.

The City of Toronto operates 10 of the more than 80 long-term care homes in Toronto. Since we first learned of this virus, we have made it a priority to provide guidance and support to both our City-owned long-term care homes, and the rest across our city. To date, there have been outbreaks in three of the 10 homes operated by the City.

In mid-March, the City of Toronto’s Seniors Services and Long-Term Care (SSLTC) Division, which cares for approximately 2,600 residents, began asking staff to select the City as their primary employer in order to limit work locations and, therefore, minimize COVID-19 exposure for both themselves and residents.

On Tuesday, recognizing that this sector-wide challenge required additional measures, the Ontario Government restricted long-term care staff from working in more than one care home, retirement home, or health care setting, effective as of 12:01 a.m. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

To assist staff in their decision to work for City long-term care homes, SSLTC has offered additional hours (up to full-time hours) for part-time staff, and posted an 18-week schedule. Today, SSLTC staff working in one of the 10 long-term care homes will be asked to confirm their decision to work solely for the City. Staff unable to commit to the City will be placed on an unpaid leave of absence, for the length of the emergency order. Their position of employment remains secure following the end of the pandemic.

SSLTC has identified staffing shortages in all of its departments arising from staff illness, isolation due to international travel, and childcare needs. On March 14, SSLTC stopped all non-essential services, and redirected resources to the essential long-term care operations, maximizing part-time frontline staff and using overtime to meet staffing needs during outbreaks. The City has also hired 50 nursing students and Personal Support Worker-certified individuals to support and backfill positions.

More than 80 City employees from across Divisions have been redeployed to SSLTC, and another 80 will be starting soon, with additional staffing support from the Emergency Operations Centre.

While Toronto Public Health is ensuring that our long-term care homes have all possible infection prevention and control measures in place, it is critical that everyone does their part to prevent the spread of this virus. We need to continue to stay home, in order to protect those who are most vulnerable, as well as the workers who care for them.