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'You got to pick up the pace': Ford slams some local medical officers of health for not conducting enough COVID-19 tests
Published Tuesday, May 5, 2020 10:30AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, May 5, 2020 7:18PM EDT
Premier Doug Ford blamed local health officials for the province’s poor testing numbers Tuesday, despite the fact that testing falls under provincial jurisdiction.
Ford says he is “calling out” some of the province’s local medical officers of health for not testing enough people for COVID-19.
Ontario conducted just 10,654 tests on Monday, approximately 7,000 fewer tests than the number processed on Saturday.
"There is certain medical officers in certain jurisdictions... some just aren't performing," Ford said at Queen’s Park on Tuesday afternoon.
"You have half of them really exceeding expectations and then you have some others that aren't even putting the work in as far as I can see. So we need to hold these people accountable."
His office later clarified that he was referring to a lag in testing at long-term care homes, where local health units have been asked to help test more broadly, even though that is not a function they are normally responsible for.
Ontario’s chief medical officer acknowledged Tuesday that local public health units have not been adequately supplied for the task of expanded testing.
“Some were waiting and ready to go on the weekend and they were not given the supplies to give to the home to get the place going,” Dr. David Williams said.
He said some of the local health units felt they had not been equipped to conduct proper tests.
“A number of them have said ‘we were ready to go, but didn’t get either the adequate supply or the correct swabs out to our area and we weren’t sure about how this was going to be undertaken because if you’re going to do a survey, you should do it in a quality way.’ So there were supply issues noted.”
Ford said his team will be speaking to the officials in the regions that aren’t “performing” over the next few days.
"I'm disappointed in the chief medical officers in certain regions. I'm not going to name them. They know who they are," he added.
"Start picking up your socks and start doing testing. I don't know what the big problems is with testing. It is frustrating as anything."
Ontario has faced criticism for a sluggish climb towards its proper testing capacity.
Williams said he has no list of local health officials who aren’t performing, but has been working “one-on-one” with local health units where there are issues. In Ontario, local medical officers of health do not report to the chief medical officer of health.
Ford suggested that in the future, Ontario may look to adopt a more “centralized” system rather than having 34 individual medical officers of health for each region, an idea his government had been exploring prior to the pandemic.
"After this is over, we need to review it and start looking at the Alberta model. It's a lot easier to have one person in control than 34 people in control," he said.
In the 2019 budget, Ford’s government proposed mergers of local public health units, suggesting that it would strengthen the system.
Despite warning from local health units that the plan would jeopardize services, the province said as late as January that they would move forward with some mergers. Those plans are now on hold because of the pandemic, Williams said Tuesday.
In a statement, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it was “shocking” that the premier would blame local health units for a lag in testing.
“It was shocking to hear Doug Ford throw public health leaders under the bus,” Horwath said in her statement. “He determines how many public health units and labs we have, and how much funding they get, and he’s the one that spent the last year battling these organizations to make cuts to them. The buck stops with Mr. Ford."
Ford's comments come less than a week after the premier said Ontario was leading all other Canadian provinces in testing, both per capita and in number of tests.
387 new cases reported in Ontario
The province reported 387 new lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Monday, up from the 370 cases confirmed on Sunday.
The number of new cases is significantly lower than the record-high 640 new cases that were reported on April 25 and the 511 confirmed on Friday.
The number of virus-related deaths continues to climb with 61 deaths reported on Monday, down from the 84 reported on Sunday.
The total number of deaths in the province now sits at 1,361.
All but 66 of virus-related deaths in the province are in patients 60 or older and more than 900 of the deaths are in patients 80 and over.
Long-term care homes have been hit hardest during the pandemic, with residents in those facilities accounting for more than three-quarters of all virus-related deaths.
The province says there are currently 218 outbreaks at long-term care homes, an increase of six from yesterday’s report.
To date, Ontario has seen 18,310 lab-confirmed cases of COVID-19 but the province says that 12,779 of those cases are now considered to be resolved.
The number of patients hospitalized with the virus jumped up again on Monday.
The province says 1,043 patients infected with the respiratory illness are now receiving treatment in hospital however, the number of people in intensive and on ventilators has declined.
According to the data released Tuesday, there are 223 patients in intensive care and 166 on ventilators.
• Health care workers represent nearly 16 per cent of all cases (2,892)
• GTA public health units account for 60.4 per cent of all confirmed cases
• A little more than 12 per cent of all cases have resulted in hospitalizations
• Females make up a larger number of lab-confirmed confirmed cases (57.5 per cent) than males (41.7 per cent)
• Community transmission accounts for 36.1 per cent of all cases
- With files from The Canadian Press