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Indoor nursing home visits to open July 22; funding announced for long-term care homes

Ontario’s Minister of Long-Term Care Merrilee Fullerton announced Wednesday that indoor visits will be permitted starting July 22 at the province’s nursing homes.

The announcement comes months after families were shut out of seeing their loved ones in effort to stop the spread of the novel coronovirus.

In late March, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams advised long-term care homes to only allow essential visitors for those who were extremely ill, or required end-of-life care.

Last month families were able to visit loved ones outside, in supervised, scheduled meetings that allowed no touching. Visitors were required to have proof of a negative COVID-19 test every two weeks.

Effective immediately, two people at a time can visit a loved one during an outdoor visit, and are not required to take a COVID-19 test.

Effective July 22, indoor visits will be permitted for up to two people per resident at a time. For indoor visits, COVID-19 negative tests will still be required.

In response to “a broken” long-term care system, Premier Doug Ford announced at Wednesday’s news conference that over the next five years, the government is investing $1.75 billion into homes and updating design standards to include air conditioning for new and renovated homes, beginning immediately.

Funding is to ensure long-term care homes in need have working air conditioning, a measure, he said that should have been put into place many years ago. Both for-profit and not-for-profit homes will have access to government’s funds to install air conditioning.

The province said the Long-Term Care Development Modernization Strategy  “will not only encourage new beds to be built faster, but also upgrade existing older homes to meet high quality design standards, with features like air conditioning and private or semi-private rooms. Our seniors deserve nothing less,” said Ford.

It is expected to create 8,000 new long-term care beds, and 12,000 redeveloped beds in the coming years.

The new funding, he said, will make it more attractive for operators to build long-term care homes and bring homes with three-four person wards up to modern design standards. Currently more than 38,000 people are on the waitlist to access a long-term care space, and new construction, he said, has not kept pace, adding that between 2011 and 2018, there were 611 long-term care beds built across the province ― less than one bed per home.

“The previous “one-size-fits-all” funding model has not spurred development nor accounted for how regional differences impact land, construction and other development costs.

Nearly 78,000 Ontario residents currently live in 626 long-term care homes across the province.

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