TORONTO (Reuters) - The Canadian province of Ontario will invest C$1.75 billion ($1.29 billion) in long-term care homes over five years, Premier Doug Ford said on Wednesday, after senior homes bore the brunt of COVID-19 deaths.
The funding is part of a commitment to create 30,000 long-term care beds in the next 10 years, Ford said at a press briefing in Toronto.
Long-term care homes in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec were hard hit during the coronavirus pandemic, sparking calls for improving these facilities.
Both provinces had to call in the Canadian military to help with the management of some homes, after deaths in the long-term care home system accounted for more than half of their total COVID-19 deaths.
An armed forces report in May about five of the worst-affected Ontario homes said the residents were left in soiled diapers, and patient rooms filled with “significant fecal contamination,” cockroaches and ants.
“We inherited a broken system,” Ford said. “It’s unacceptable, and we’re going to fix it.”
The province is also updating design standards of care homes to include air conditioning in any newly built or renovated homes, and dedicating funding to getting air conditioning into homes in need.
Ontario’s summers can reach temperatures above 40°C (104°F) with humidity.
Out of Ontario’s 2,732 deaths from COVID-19 so far, 1,738 have been in long-term care homes, including eight staff members, according to provincial data.
Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Nick Zieminski