TORONTO — The Ontario government is working with businesses, volunteer organizations and non-profits to make it easier for Ontario's seniors to self-isolate and practice physical distancing during this unprecedented time by ensuring they can receive the support they need to stay safe and healthy. Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health is strongly urging those over the age of 70 or those with compromised immune systems or underlying medical conditions to stay at home.
The government is investing $10 million to help community organizations with the coordination of subsidized deliveries of meals, medicines and other necessities to seniors. This investment doubles the government's initial commitment in Ontario's Action Plan: Responding to COVID-19. The government is also working with grocers and pharmacists to prioritize seniors' delivery orders and establish senior-only shopping hours.
"We take seriously the advice of Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health, and we're working to put an iron ring of protection around our seniors from COVID-19," said Premier Doug Ford. "I know asking our seniors to stay at home will not be easy as it will mean inconvenience, isolation and significant change in routine. That's why we are encouraging everyone to reach out and support them, whether it's delivering their prescriptions or picking up the phone and giving them a call. It will all make a positive difference to our most vulnerable citizens."
The government is also working with province-wide organizations including Ontario Community Support Association (OCSA) and Older Adults Centres' Association of Ontario (OACAO) to identify and mobilize potential volunteer supports and expand the use of innovative technologies in the community to address social isolation and support daily living assistance.
"Our seniors have dedicated their lives to making Ontario the great province it is today. During this very difficult period, we need to take every step possible to protect them and ensure they stay healthy both physically and mentally," said Raymond Cho, Minister for Seniors and Accessibility. "I encourage everyone to stay in regular contact with a parent, grand parent or neighbour to make sure they have everything they need."
This $10 million delivery coordination program for seniors living at home is in addition to the $20 million over two years the province has invested to protect seniors in retirement homes through increased infection control and active screening procedures and $243 million for long-term care homes to support 24/7 screening, additional staffing, enhanced cleaning and sanitation, and additional surge capacity.
"We must do everything in our power to care for and support Ontario's most vulnerable population," said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. "I want to assure you that we are working around the clock to assist and care for Ontario's seniors, especially those in long-term care, during this unprecedented time."
The government is implementing a new emergency order to ensure that staffing and resources are available to help care for and protect long-term care residents, providing further flexibility and allowing homes to redirect their staffing and financial resources to essential tasks. This is in addition to implementing a new approach to redeploying highly qualified inspectors to support long-term care homes on the ground through staff supply, care coordination, and helping homes prevent and contain infections.
"It's never been more important that all Ontarians heed the advice of our Chief Medical Officer of Health by staying home and practicing physical distancing," said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. "This is especially true because it's the only way to protect our seniors and the most vulnerable people in our province. All of us need to do our part to stop the spread of this virus."