The Ontario government is promising to establish a new standard that would see long-term care residents receive an average of four hours of direct care every day. 

A senior government source not authorized to speak publicly says the province will announce its commitment to the standard today, with a pledge to have it achieved by 2024-2025.

The source says additional details will be laid out in the provincial budget later this week, and a long-term care staffing plan will be released next month.

The source says the province will need to hire “tens of thousands” more personal support workers, registered practical nurses and registered nurses in the coming years to provide the care. 

The government says long-term care residents currently receive an average of 2.75 hours of direct care per day. 

Health-care advocates and unions have long-pressed for a minimum four-hour standard of care to improve conditions in Ontario’s long-term care homes.

The source said the government has been developing a strategy to implement the care standard for some time as part of its plan to fix what it views as a “broken” long-term care system where more than 2,010 residents have died since the start of the pandemic.

“These plans take months, not days to develop,” the source said.

Earlier this month, the province’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission said Ontario must spend more money, on a permanent basis, so the homes can hire more personal support workers and nurses.

The commission — which is investigating how the novel coronavirus spread in the long-term care system — also said the province should implement its own staffing plan that came out of an inquiry into a serial-killing nurse who preyed upon nursing-home residents.

The province released that staffing study in July in response to the inquiry about Elizabeth Wettlaufer, a long-term care nurse who used severe staffing shortages to her advantage. She killed eight residents over nine years with lethal injections of insulin, often while working alone on the night shift.

That study recommended a minimum of four hours of direct care per resident per day.

Ontario’s New Democrats have introduced four private members’ bills, most recently last week, in a bid to secure the standard of care in nursing homes.

The NDP also included the care standard in the first plank of its 2022 election platform released last month. 

This report by The Canadian Press was first published November 2, 2020.

Shawn Jeffords, The Canadian Press

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