‘I never refuse help:’ Ford says PM has offered to send in military to Ont. long-term care homes
Published Wednesday, January 13, 2021 7:47AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, January 13, 2021 2:05PM EST
Premier Doug Ford says he believes sending in the military to some of the province's long-term care homes hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic is warranted and the prime minister has offered to provide the support.
Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, the premier said during a phone call earlier today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau offered to send in the military to some Ontario long-term care homes where additional support is required. But when questioned about it further, Ford stopped short of confirming that he intends to follow through on the offer.
“I just got off the phone with the prime minister before I came out here an hour ago or so and he’s offered that up. We’ll take all the help we can get. I never refuse help. If it’s the military, if it’s the Red Cross, if it’s anyone,” Ford told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.
When pressed for details about a possible plan to send in the military, Ford reiterated that he “never, ever” refuses help.
“He has offered any help that we need to secure the long-term care. We are working collaboratively together,” he said.
When asked by a third reporter for specifics about a possible military deployment, Ford said he is leaving it up to the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Long-Term Care to decide.
“I just got off the phone with the prime minister an hour ago,” he said. “I will leave that up to health and long-term care… to see when they can come in if that’s required and (in) my opinion, some homes it’s required,” Ford said.
Early last week, the prime minister told reporters that his government had reached out to the province to offer “targeted help” to bring COVID-19 outbreaks in long-term care under control.
"We've already lost too many elders in long-term care. The tragedies of the spring must not be repeated. As we have been since March, our government is here to support provinces in getting the situation under control in their jurisdictions," Trudeau said last Tuesday.
"Already we've been in touch with the Government of Ontario and stand ready to provide additional targeted help."
He also noted that he would be discussing the topic with all of the country’s premiers at the first ministers’ meeting last Thursday.
“Just like when we first deployed the armed forces and the Red Cross during the first wave, our top priority is keeping people safe. I'll be bringing up long-term care homes with all premiers on Thursday."
Ford did not say if he spoke with the prime minister last week about sending in the military to some of Ontario’s long-term homes that are struggling to contain outbreaks.
In a statement released shortly after Wednesday's news conference, the premier's office thanked Ottawa for the "ongoing support throughout the pandemic."
"The support that we have requested and are currently receiving includes military field hospitals, military logistics advisors to support the vaccine roll-out, including in long-term care, and Red Cross teams in select long-term care homes across Ontario," the statement read.
"We will continue to work with the federal government and if any further support is needed we will request it.”
Several hundred Canadian Forces nurses and other staff were sent to seven badly-hit long-term care homes in the GTA during the first wave, documenting atrocious neglect and poor care of residents in some circumstances.
Nearly 40 per cent of the province’s long-term care homes are currently dealing with active outbreaks of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Since the start of the pandemic, 3,063 residents have died after contracting COVID-19 and since Jan. 1, more than 200 long-term care residents have died after becoming infected with the disease.
The province has said it plans to inoculate all Ontario long-term care residents with at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by Feb. 15.
“The vaccinations are the best way to provide that iron ring,” Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said at Wednesday’s news conference.
But new provincial modelling released Tuesday said that despite efforts to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine to all long-term care homes in the province as soon as possible, under the worst case scenario, virus-related deaths among long-term care residents during the second wave of the pandemic could reach a total of more than 2,600 by Feb. 14, exceeding the 1,815 deaths recorded during the first wave.
The provincial government says it plans to vaccinate all long-term care residents in Toronto, Peel Region, York Region, and Windsor-Essex County, areas of the province with the highest rates of infection, by Jan. 21.