Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

A healthcare worker leaves after finishing her shift for the day at the Eatonville Care Centre in Toronto, April 24, 2020.

Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Ontario long-term care homes dealing with staffing shortages and absentee leaders were more likely to have a higher risk of mortality during the first wave of the pandemic, an independent commission has heard.

Researchers with the Canadian Institute for Health Information, an independent, not-for-profit organization, were asked by Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission to answer four questions through data analysis.

The commission’s goal was to better understand the likelihood of COVID-19 outbreaks, the severity of the outbreaks, the resident mortality rate and high-resident mortality rate in homes where 20 per cent or more of the residents died from the disease.

Story continues below advertisement

The researchers presented their findings to the commission on March 3.

The commission heard that 573 of the province’s 623 long-term care homes, or 92 per cent, responded to the survey, giving what the researchers said was the clearest picture yet of the situation in Ontario’s nursing homes.

That new data, combined with existing data provided by the Ministry of Health, allowed the researchers to create four models to try to figure out which factors played significant roles in the deadly COVID-19 outbreaks that swept through scores of nursing homes.

“Our work demonstrated the criticality of a vital health workforce, both at a baseline level as well as workforce with ability to scale-up safely in times of crisis,” said Natalie Damiano, the institute’s director of specialized care.

“The physical presence of leadership in long-term care homes, including the consistent presence of a medical director, is needed to prevent poor outcomes.”

Causation cannot be determined from the analysis, the researchers noted, only associations.

The researchers found there was both a higher risk of mortality and higher severity of illnesses from COVID-19 in homes where the medical director was present less than one day per week.

Story continues below advertisement

“The finding around the medical director is hugely important, I think, because what we’ve got here is a very clinically complicated population at maximum risk levels for adverse outcomes for COVID,” said Dr. John Hirdes, a professor with the school of public health at the University of Waterloo and a close collaborator with the institute.

The commission has previously heard that numerous medical directors and other physicians did not enter the homes during the first wave of the pandemic. Many of them worked remotely and some refused to enter the homes for fear of contracting the virus.

Shortages of personal support workers and the increased use of personal support worker agencies were also associated with higher risk of mortality and higher severity of illnesses, they said.

Areas with higher COVID-19 rates in the surrounding community was also an important factor in both mortality rates and more severe illnesses inside long-term care homes.

The researchers also analyzed the hardest-hit homes – the 26 long-term care homes across the province where 20 per cent or more of the residents died from COVID-19, the commission heard.

The researchers found only two factors played a role in those homes with very high resident mortality.

Story continues below advertisement

The first is whether or not the facility was short 25 per cent of their personal support worker staff on any given day between March and June 2020, said Luke Turcotte, a senior researcher with the institute’s advanced analytics team.

The second factor was whether or not the home used agency staff on seven or more days in a given month.

“These findings highlight the importance of staffing, particularly personal support workers, to the health and well-being of residents,” Turcotte said.

The independent commission, led by the Superior Court’s associate chief justice Frank Marrocco, isn’t open to the public, but transcripts of testimony are posted online days later.

It aims to investigate how the virus spread in long-term care, and issue recommendations aimed at preventing similar outcomes. The commission is expected to submit its final report to the provincial government on April 30.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies