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Jane Philpott says military report on long-term care homes 'has shaken us to our core'
OTTAWA -- Former Liberal Health Minister Jane Philpott, who was ejected from caucus last year during the SNC-Lavalin scandal, says it's time for a national inquiry into conditions in Canada’s long-term care (LTC) homes.
This comes after a report released Tuesday detailed horrific conditions in five Ontario LTC homes.
"What I would say on this report is it is absolutely scandalous," Philpott, who is a physician, told CTV's Power Play on Tuesday.
She said that while there are some long-term care facilities that are "well-run" with "loving caregivers," she warned that there are "surely many more" than just five facilities "where the care is abhorrent."
"The military has put out a report which has shaken us to our core, and hopefully this will be the one that will trigger, finally, I believe, a full national inquiry — not just a localized, regional look. But this is something that every order of government, every political party, every health-care administrator in the country needs to take some responsibility for," Philpott said.
The Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) report, details shocking and disturbing conditions within five of the Ontario long-term care homes where the military had been sent to help tackle the COVID-19 pandemic.
Military members say they witnessed insect infestations, force-feeding of residents to the point that audible choking could be heard, and residents "crying out for help" with no response from staff for up to two hours. They also highlighted serious concerns about shortages of personal protective equipment, staffing shortages, and flagrant failures to isolate COVID-positive patients.
Advocates have said many of these problems have persisted since before the COVID-19 pandemic. Pressed on why she didn't take action on the conditions in long-term care homes during her tenure as health minister, Philpott did not provide a direct answer, saying that health care is a provincial responsibility while calling this is an instance where "setting a national standard could make a huge difference."
The Ontario provincial government has launched a full investigation into the allegations, but Canada has not yet signalled any intention of following suit with the national inquiry Philpott is calling for.
Speaking on CTV's Power Play, former NDP Leader Tom Mulcair warned that there are "horror stories" in Quebec long-term care facilities as well.
He said any similar report from Quebec would be much the same, "if not worse."
Meanwhile, the Ontario CAF report had politicians reeling as the public outcry grew, and questions about how things could get so bad were flung by reporters and opposition politicians alike.
In the House of Commons on Tuesday, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer pressed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the timeline of the report being made public, accusing the government of sitting on the report for almost two weeks – something the government has explicitly denied.
"Soldiers have witnessed cockroaches, rotting food, seniors left in soiled diapers and cries for help ignored for lengthy periods. I am sure all Canadians are horrified to hear these details. However, the Liberals only provided this report to the Province of Ontario on Sunday. In other words, the government sat on this report for almost two weeks," Scheer said.
Trudeau said his government didn't receive the report until the evening of May 21, and that it was passed along to the province on the weekend.
"I read the report in full on Monday. And today on Tuesday it is being made public. Canadians need to know what's going on and we need to work together to fix it," Trudeau said.
National Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan's office said in a statement that he was "shocked" by the report, which his office also said he received on May 21.
Earlier on Tuesday, Trudeau also told reporters about how he felt about the "deeply disturbing" report. While reading it, he said he had feelings of "anger, of sadness, of frustration, of grief. It is extremely troubling."
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh took to Twitter to share his own feelings about the revelations, noting that staff at these facilities have been raising concerns "for years" and calling for for-profit homes to be abolished.
"Our seniors need more than compassion, they need action now. For profit LTC homes have been the site of the worse conditions. No one should make money off the backs of seniors," he said in the tweet.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford also faced his share of questions about the issue, and while he said he doesn’t think his government "failed seniors," he did say the issue is his responsibility to fix.
"I can tell you I'm going to fix this system. I'm going to fix the system no matter what it takes. But you're right. The buck stops with me, and I take ownership. I take full ownership of this," Ford said.
With files from CTV News Toronto’s Katherine DeClerq