Transcript: Queen's Park Plans for Long-Term Care | Nov 25, 2020

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and spotted brown tie.

A caption on screen reads "Queen's Park plans for long-term care. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says THE PROVINCE PLEDGED... IN APRIL AND AGAIN THIS FALL... TO PUT AN "IRON RING" OF PROTECTION AROUND SENIORS IN LONG-TERM CARE IN ONTARIO. BUT AS THE SECOND WAVE FORCES LOCKDOWNS AND RISING HOSPITALIZATIONS, THAT'S A TALL ORDER, AND ONE THAT FALLS TO: MERRILEE FULLERTON. AS MINISTER OF LONG-TERM CARE, SHE'S BEEN ON THIS FILE SINCE ASSUMING THE ROLE A YEAR AND A HALF AGO. SHE IS THE PC MPP FOR KANATA-CARLETON AND JOINS US NOW FROM HER OFFICE AT QUEEN'S PARK. MINISTER, GOOD TO SEE YOU AGAIN. HOW ARE YOU DOING?

Fullerton says GOOD TO SEE YOU TOO. I'M DOING OKAY. WE'RE JUST CONTINUING TO DO WHAT WE NEED TO DO AND TO SERVE ONTARIANS AND OUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY IS KEEPING OUR RESIDENTS AND STAFF IN LONG-TERM CARE SAFE. THAT'S OUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY.

Steve says LET'S START THERE. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE OUTBREAK IN THE SPRING THAT YOU CAN NOW SAY WE'VE APPLIED THAT KNOWLEDGE TO THE FALL, TO THE SECOND OUTBREAK, AND THEREFORE, IN YOUR VIEW, THINGS AREN'T AS BAD NOW AS THEY MIGHT OTHERWISE BE?

The caption changes to "Merrilee Fullerton. Minister of Long-Term Care."
Then, it changes again to "Lessons from the first wave."

Fullerton says WELL, THIS HAS BEEN AN UNPRECEDENTED SITUATION ACROSS THE GLOBE AND A NEW VIRUS THAT WAS UNKNOWN TO THE SCIENTISTS AND THE EXPERTS, AND CERTAINLY THE INFORMATION THAT WE'VE BEEN ABLE TO GATHER FROM OUR MEDICAL EXPERTS HAS BEEN EXTREMELY HELPFUL, DEALING WITH NOT ONLY IN THE FIRST WAVE BUT IN MAKING THINGS BETTER IN THE SECOND WAVE. SO THAT WOULD BE LOOKING AT THE WAY THIS SPREADS, YOU KNOW, THE ASYMPTOMATIC NATURE IN SOME CASES POSED A REAL PROBLEM IN THE FIRST WAVE. WE NEEDED MORE TESTING. THE PPE WAS A CHALLENGE GLOBALLY. AND WE'VE ADVANCED IN SO MANY WAYS FROM THE FIRST WAVE. OUR PPE SUPPLY IS SOLID, MANUFACTURED HERE IN ONTARIO. OUR TESTING IS ROBUST. WE'RE DOING THE ASYMPTOMATIC TESTING FOR STAFF AND PEOPLE COMING IN TO LONG-TERM CARE TO MAKE SURE THERE'S NOT A SINGLE CASE THAT COMES IN. AND OUR TESTING ISN'T PERFECT, AND THAT'S WHY WE'RE CONTINUING TO REFINE IT AND YOU MAY HAVE HEARD THE NEWS ABOUT THE RAPID TESTING THAT HAS BEEN MADE AVAILABLE NOW AND THAT'S ROLLING OUT. BUT IT'S ALSO REALLY IMPORTANT TO EMPHASIZE INTEGRATION, THE INTEGRATION OF LONG-TERM CARE INTO THE ENTIRE HEALTH CARE SYSTEM, AS AN INTEGRAL PART WITH ACUTE CARE.

The caption changes to "Merrilee Fullerton. PC MPP, Kanata-Carleton."

Fullerton continues AND WHAT WE'VE SEEN IN THE FIRST WAVE WITH THE... YOU KNOW, THE RAPID EFFECT THAT COVID HAD AND THE IMPACT THAT IT HAD ON LONG-TERM CARE, THE ABILITY TO GET THE EXPERTISE FROM THE ACUTE CARE SECTOR, WHETHER IT WAS INFECTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL, WHETHER IT WAS... YOU KNOW, AND WHEN YOU SEE THE CAVALRY COMING IN AND YOU'RE IN A SITUATION LIKE SOME OF OUR LONG-TERM CARE HOMES WERE IN, TO SEE THAT SUPPORT FOR STAFFING, THE RAPID RESPONSE TEAMS THAT WERE COMING IN AND HELPING, AND THAT INTEGRATION WITH OUR EXPERTS AND BRINGING THE IPAT CONTROL, AS I SAID. ALSO JUST TO KNOW THAT THERE'S A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF HOW IMPORTANT LONG-TERM CARE IS TO OUR ACUTE CARE SECTOR. SO THAT INTEGRATION WAS KEY AND THE PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS ABOVE AND BEYOND, EVERYONE REALLY TRYING TO MAKE A VERY DIFFICULT SITUATION IMPROVED...

Steve says LET ME SEE IF I CAN...

Fullerton says IN WAVE TWO.

Steve says LET ME SEE IF I CAN UNPACK SOME OF THE ISSUES YOU'VE RAISED IN THAT ANSWER. YOU TALKED ABOUT THE CAVALRY COMING IN. THE CANADIAN FORCES DID HAVE TO COME IN AND THERE WERE HORRIBLE CONDITIONS THAT WERE UNCOVERED AND THE PREMIER HIMSELF SAID HE WAS HEART BROKEN AT WHAT WAS DISCOVERED IN THE MILITARY'S REPORT, NEGLECT TO RESIDENTS AND SO ON. WHAT HAS BEEN DONE TO ENSURE NO REPEAT OF THAT?

The caption changes to "Merrilee Fullerton, @DrFullertonMPP."

Fullerton says ABSOLUTELY. WHAT WE SAW IS, WITH THE STAFFING, AND WHEN THE STAFF WERE GETTING SICK OR THEY WERE AFRAID BECAUSE WE REALLY NEEDED TO MAKE SURE WE HAD A SOLID SUPPLY OF PPE, AND THE CHALLENGES WERE EXTREME IN THE FIRST WAVE. SO, AGAIN, WE HAVE THE PPE AVAILABLE, THE N-95 MASKS, WE ARE ABLE TO SHORE UP OUR STAFF. THERE'S NO HOME AT THE MOMENT WITH ANY CRITICAL SHORTAGE OF STAFF, AND THAT'S KEY, BECAUSE WHEN YOU START TO SEE THE STAFFING FALL, THAT'S WHEN YOU GET THE POOR RESIDENT OUTCOMES...

Steve says LET ME PICK UP ON THAT BECAUSE YOU WON'T BE SURPRISED TO HEAR THAT NOT EVERYBODY SEES IT THAT WAY. WE JUST HAD FOUR GUESTS ON THE PROGRAM BEFORE YOU'VE COME ON, ALL OF WHOM HAVE PAINTED A VERY DIFFERENT PICTURE. AND THESE ARE ALL PEOPLE YOU KNOW AND THEY'RE LEADERS IN THEIR FIELDS, AND THEY HAVE SAID, FOR EXAMPLE, STAFFING IS STILL IN CRISIS. THEY HAVE SAID, FOR EXAMPLE, THAT STAFF AT SOME LONG-TERM CARE HOMES HAVE BEEN TOLD, PLEASE GO EASY ON THE PPE. WE DON'T HAVE ENOUGH AND YOU MAY HAVE TO REUSE IT OR DON'T USE IT AS OFTEN AS YOU MIGHT THINK YOU NEED TO. WE HAVE STILL... WE'RE A LONG WAY AWAY FROM FOUR HOURS OF HANDS-ON CARE PER RESIDENT PER DAY. ANYWAY... WELL, ANYWAY, I COULD GO THROUGH A LONGER LIST, BUT LET'S START WITH THOSE THINGS THERE. THEY'RE SEEING A VERY DIFFERENT SCENARIO THAN WHAT YOU'VE JUST DESCRIBED. WHAT'S THE DISCONNECT?

Fullerton says WE'RE IN CONTINUOUS CONTACT WITH OUR LONG-TERM CARE HOMES MULTIPLE TIMES A DAY WITH UPDATES ON INFORMATION AND RESPONDING TO THAT. THE PPE, A NUMBER OF WEEKS AGO IN OUR 540 MILLION dollar PACKAGE, WHICH INCLUDED INFECTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL, STAFFING SUPPORTS, IT INCLUDED 8 WEEKS OF SUPPLY FOR OUR LONG-TERM CARE HOMES OF PPE. AND UNDERSTANDING THE NATURE EVOLVING OF THIS VIRUS AS WELL IN TERMS OF THE CONCERNS... MAKING SURE THAT N-95s WERE AVAILABLE TO HOMES IN OUTBREAK. SO THIS IS SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN ONGOING, AND WE KNOW THAT THE STAFFING IS HOLDING. IT IS NOT LIKE THE FIRST WAVE. AND WE ALSO LEARNED FROM THE FIRST WAVE HOW QUICKLY A HOME CAN GET INTO TROUBLE, IT CAN BE FINE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WEEK AND THEN, IN A FEW DAYS, IT'S IN CRISES. AND SO THIS INTEGRATION THAT I SPEAK OF, MAKING SURE THAT OUR HOSPITALS ARE INTEGRATED AND AWARE EARLY, THAT WE ARE GETTING COMMUNITY SUPPORT, WHETHER IT'S COMMUNITY PARAMEDICS OR IN SOME CASES, IN THE OTTAWA AREA, IT WAS THE RED CROSS, AND MAKING SURE THOSE STAFFING SUPPORTS ARE PUT IN AT THE EARLIEST POSSIBLE TIME TO MAKE THE BEST USE OF THOSE RESOURCES. SO OUR HOMES ARE HOLDING IN TERMS OF THE STAFFING, AND I'LL BE ABSOLUTELY CLEAR. WE WERE IN A STAFFING CRISIS GOING INTO COVID, AND THAT'S SOMETHING THAT WE WERE DOING ACTIVELY WORKING ON FOR THE LONGER TERM AND IMMEDIATE, AND IN TERMS OF COVID EMERGENCY SITUATION. SO IT'S REALLY A MULTI-LAYERED APPROACH. WE CAN'T STOP. IT'S A LONG-TERM STRATEGY BECAUSE THAT'S SOMETHING THAT WE'RE GOING TO NEED DOWN THE ROAD AS WE BUILD CAPACITY. BUT UNDERSTANDING THAT THERE ARE SOMETIMES URGENT MEASURES THAT HAVE TO BE TAKEN, WHETHER IT'S MANDATORY MANAGEMENT ORDERS, WHETHER VOLUNTARY MANAGEMENT CONTRACTS, THESE THINGS HAVE TO BE DONE QUICKLY, AND WE EVEN CHANGED THE DEFINITION OF AN OUTBREAK SO IT INCLUDES EVEN JUST ONE STAFF MEMBER WHO IS ISOLATING AT HOME. TO MAKE SURE THAT WE CAN GET ALL THE PUBLIC HEALTH RESOURCES IN RIGHT AWAY. SO THE VAST MAJORITY OF OUR HOMES HAVE NO RESIDENT CASES, AND THIS IS... IT'S DEFINITELY IMPROVED SINCE THE FIRST WAVE. BUT WE'RE CONTINUOUSLY LEARNING, ADAPTING TO NEW INFORMATION, WORKING WITH OUR PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS TO KEEP UP WITH THE CHANGING INFORMATION. BUT LOOKING AT THE STAFFING, IT'S ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL THAT WE LISTEN TO OUR STAFFING... OUR EXPERT STAFFING PANEL THAT MADE SEVERAL RECOMMENDATIONS. WE'RE WORKING ON THOSE. WE'RE DOING THE RAPID TRAINING, WORKING WITH OTHER MINISTRIES, COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, WITH THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH, WITH THE MINISTRY OF LABOUR, TRAINING, AND SKILLS DEVELOPMENT TO UNDERSTAND HOW WE CAN MAKE SURE THAT WE MAXIMIZE THE USE OF THE STAFF THAT WE HAVE NOW. THE RESIDENT SUPPORT AIDE WAS A NEW PROGRAM THAT WE ALSO BROUGHT IN. SO THIS IS ONGOING AND WE'RE USING EVERY MEASURE, EVERY TOOL. AND AS NEW EVIDENCE EMERGES, WE USE THAT TOO, SUCH AS THE NEW TOOL WITH THE RAPID TESTING, AND WE'RE GETTING THAT OUT TO OUR HOMES. THERE ARE SIX HOMES RIGHT NOW WHO HAVE IT. WE'RE GETTING IT OUT TO ANOTHER THIRTY. BUT THIS HAS TO BE COORDINATED AS WELL BECAUSE IT'S A NEW TOOL AND WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND AND MAKE SURE THAT WE ARE UNDERSTANDING ANY PITFALLS TO IT, AND ADDRESSING THAT AS WE GO. BUT THIS HAS TO BE DONE... ALL OF THIS HAS TO BE DONE IN COVID TIME. COVID DOESN'T WAIT. AND THAT'S WHY ONE... ONE CASE INTO A HOME CAN BE DEVASTATING...

The caption changes to "Watch us anytime: tvo.org, Twitter: @theagenda, Facebook Live, YouTube."

Steve says NO, I GRANT YOU, AND IN THE INTERESTS OF FAIRNESS, WE DID POINT OUT IN THE EARLIER SEGMENT THAT THERE ARE OUTBREAKS IN ABOUT 16 percent OF THE PROVINCE'S LONG-TERM CARE HOMES. IT'S A LONG WAY FROM THE MAJORITY, SO WE DO UNDERSTAND THAT. BUT THESE FOUR OBSERVERS, AND THEY'RE PLAYERS IN THE SYSTEM, THESE ARE NOT JUST NEWSPAPER CRITICS, THEY'RE PLAYERS IN THE SYSTEM, SAY WE'RE NOWHERE CLOSE TO BEING WHERE WE NEED TO BE ON THE ISSUE OF, FOR EXAMPLE, ONE PSW OR ONE SUPPORT WORKER PER HOME AND THAT'S IT. THAT THE PROVINCE IS STILL NOT PAYING WHAT WAS CONSIDERED A LIVING WAGE TO THESE PEOPLE SO THEY ONLY HAVE TO WORK IN ONE HOME AND NOT GO TO MULTIPLE HOMES AS AGENCY REPS OFTEN HAVE TO DO. WHY HAVEN'T YOU BEEN ABLE TO MAKE ANY PROGRESS ON THAT?

Fullerton says WELL, WE BROUGHT IN THE PANDEMIC PAY FAIRLY EARLY ON. AGAIN, THIS HAD TO BE COORDINATED WITH THE PSWS THAT WORK IN OTHER SECTORS, WHETHER IT'S THE MINISTRY OF SENIORS AND ACCESSIBILITY OR IN TERMS OF CHILDREN'S DEVELOPMENTAL PROGRAMS AND UNDERSTAND HOW ONE AREA WOULD AFFECT ANOTHER, BECAUSE WHEN YOU DO SOMETHING, WHETHER IT'S IN LONG-TERM CARE OR IN HEALTH CARE, YOU TWEAK SOMETHING, IT CAN HAVE AN EFFECT SOMEWHERE ELSE. SO THIS HAD TO BE A COORDINATED EFFORT. SO WE BROUGHT IN THE PANDEMIC PAY. WE INCREASED THE WAGE FOR OUR PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKERS IN LONG-TERM CARE BY 3 dollars AN HOUR. AND WE VALUE THEM AND WE HAVE BEEN REALLY SO APPRECIATIVE OF THE COMPASSION AND THE DEDICATION OF THE FRONT LINE IN LONG-TERM CARE. THE PSWS, THE NURSES, THE COMMUNITY PARAMEDICS, EVERYONE WHO HAS BEEN REALLY PULLING TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR RESIDENTS GET THE CARE THEY NEED, AND MY THANKS GO OUT TO THEM...

Steve says BUT THE PANDEMIC PAY WAS TEMPORARY, WAS IT NOT?

Fullerton says THE PANDEMIC PAY IS TO THE END OF THIS FISCAL YEAR, AND WE KNOW THAT THIS NEEDS TO BE SHORED UP. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKERS, OUR STAFF IN LONG-TERM CARE ARE VALUED AND WE'RE DEMONSTRATING THAT WITH THE INCREASES THAT THEY'RE RECEIVING. THERE'S A WHOLE STAFFING STRATEGY, A COMPREHENSIVE STAFFING STRATEGY THAT WILL BE OUT IN DECEMBER, AND IT HAS BEEN INFORMED NOT ONLY BY THE JUSTICE RECOMMENDATIONS WHICH WE'VE ACHIEVED 80 percent OF THOSE ARE IN PROGRESS, AND MANY COMPLETED, AND ALSO THE EXPERT STAFFING PANEL THAT WE HAD, THAT EXPERT PANEL THAT ADVISED US, THAT GAVE US THEIR RECOMMENDATIONS, INCLUDING THE FOUR HOURS OF DIRECT CARE PER RESIDENT PER DAY, WHICH WE'VE ACTED ON AND REALLY COMMITTED TO MAKING SURE THAT ON AVERAGE THAT IS OUR GOAL, THE FOUR HOURS ON AVERAGE PER RESIDENT PER DAY...

Steve says BY WHEN?

Fullerton says BECAUSE OF THE STAFFING SITUATION...

Steve says BY WHEN?

Fullerton says BY... WELL, IN FOUR YEARS. IT'S FOUR HOURS IN FOUR YEARS, BUT WE'RE WORKING AROUND THE CLOCK TO MAKE SURE THAT WE ADDRESS THE STAFFING ISSUE THAT WAS PREEXISTING, BECAUSE IN ORDER TO PROVIDE THOSE FOUR HOURS, WE NEED MORE STAFF. AND SO THAT'S WHY THERE WILL BE MASK TRAINING, COLLABORATION ACROSS MINISTRIES, COLLABORATION WITH THE SECTOR, MAKING SURE THAT WE CAN CREATE THE WORKFORCE THAT'S NEEDED, AND BEING INNOVATIVE, SUCH AS THE COMMUNITY PARA-MEDICINE PROGRAM THAT HAS BEEN VERY WELL-RECEIVED AND UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF PEOPLE BEING ABLE TO STAY IN THEIR HOME LONGER AND WITH THE RIGHT SUPPORTS THEY NEED AND THAT 24-HOUR, SEVEN DAY A WEEK SUPPORT THAT OUR COMMUNITY PARAMEDICS CAN PROVIDE IN ADDITION WITH THE WRAP-AROUND SERVICES OF HOME CARE, IT'S ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL AS OUR POPULATION AGES, AND WE'RE ONLY AT THE BEGINNING OF AN AGING POPULATION. SO NOT ONLY DO WE HAVE TO ADDRESS THE LONGSTANDING ISSUES IN TERM CARE THAT WERE NEGLECTED FOR SO MANY YEARS, THE STAFFING, THE CAPACITY, REALLY WE HAD PROBABLY A 10-YEAR RUNWAY LEADING UP TO THIS, AND THE MEASURES THAT NEEDED TO BE TAKEN WERE NOT TAKEN, AND OUR GOVERNMENT IS COMMITTED TO TAKING THOSE MEASURES...

Steve says LET ME ASK YOU ABOUT THAT. FORGIVE ME FOR JUMPING IN AND INTERRUPTING. SAMIR SINHA, YOU KNOW WELL, OF COURSE, FROM THE UNIVERSITY HEALTH NETWORK AND SINAI HEALTH AND HE WAS ONE OF THE FOUR THAT WAS JUST ON THE PROGRAM AND I BASICALLY ASKED, WHAT'S ON YOUR WISH LIST? I GOT A 10-SECOND CLIP HERE I WANT TO PLAY FOR YOU AND HERE'S WHAT HE HAD TO SAY. SHELDON, IF YOU WOULD?

A clip plays on screen with the caption "November 25, 2020. Samir Sinha."
In the clip, Samir speaks on screen. He's in his forties, clean-shaven, with short black hair.

He says I THINK WE HAVE A VERY DEDICATED MINISTER FOR LONG-TERM CARE AND I WOULD JUST SAY WHAT'S HOLDING HER BACK FROM GETTING THESE THINGS DONE? WHAT DOES SHE THINK SHE NEEDS FROM ALL OF US TO GET ACTION NOW?

The clip ends.

Steve says WHAT'S THE ANSWER TO THAT?

The caption changes to "Falling behind?"

Fullerton says THANKS TO SAMIR, DR. SINHA HAS BEEN A REAL CHAMPION, AND I APPRECIATE HIS COMMENTS. IT'S COORDINATION. AND I GO BACK TO... WHEN YOU DO ONE THING IN ONE AREA, IT AFFECTS ANOTHER. AND SO THE STAFFING REALLY HAS TO BE UNDERSTOOD ACROSS THE BOARD. SO WHAT HAPPENS WHEN WE DO SOMETHING WITH LET'S SAY PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKERS IN LONG-TERM CARE, DOES IT HAVE AFFECT ON THE PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKERS IN RETIREMENT HOMES? WILL IT IMPACT THE PERSONAL SUPPORT WORKERS IN HOME CARE? AND SO WE HAVE TO HAVE AN UNDERSTANDING OF HOW ONE AREA AFFECTS ANOTHER. IT'S CRITICAL WE DO THAT TO BE ABLE TO ANTICIPATE AN EFFECT SOMEWHERE ELSE IN THE SYSTEM. BECAUSE WE WANT TO MAKE THINGS BETTER. WE DON'T WANT TO HAVE A NEGATIVE EFFECT SOMEWHERE ELSE. THERE'S SO MUCH WORK TO BE DONE, AND IT'S CRITICAL THAT WE GET ON WITH IT. I THINK TO HAVE PEOPLE UNDERSTANDING THE DAUNTING CHALLENGE THIS IS AND TO BE CONTRIBUTORS TO THE SOLUTION, IT'S ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL. WE NEED ALL HANDS ON DECK. THIS IS SOMETHING WE'VE NEVER SEEN IN TERMS OF AN AGING POPULATION AND, ON TOP OF THAT, THE EFFECTS OF COVID. SO WE LOOK AT ALL THE GROUPS THAT HAVE DONE SUCH IMPORTANT WORK, AND WHETHER IT'S THE FRONT LINE, WHETHER IT'S OUR PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERTS, WHETHER IT'S OUR ADMINISTRATORS IN THE HOSPITALS...

Steve says LET ME GO BEYOND THAT. CAN I ASK ABOUT CABINET COLLEAGUES.

Fullerton says SURE.

Steve says ARE YOU GETTING ADEQUATE SUPPORT FROM THE MINISTER OF FINANCE, FOR EXAMPLE?

Fullerton says WELL, I THINK, IF YOU LOOK AT THE DOLLARS THAT HAVE FLOWED, THE MOST RECENT 540 MILLION dollars, BEFORE THAT IT WAS 461 MILLION dollars FOR THE PANDEMIC... ACTUALLY FOR THE TEMPORARY WAGE INCREASE. BEFORE THAT, IT WAS THE PANDEMIC PAY. BEFORE THAT, IT WAS 243 MILLION dollars...

Steve says SO THE ANSWER IS YES, YOU THINK HE'S PUT IN ENOUGH MONEY.

Fullerton says WELL, FOR THE CRISIS, BUT WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND LONGER TERM, IT'S GOING TO TAKE BILLIONS. AND I'VE CHAMPIONED OUR ELDERLY FOR MANY, MANY YEARS. THAT'S WHY I'M HERE IN POLITICS...

Steve says THIS IS WHY I THINK PEOPLE NEED TO UNDERSTAND. YOU'RE THE MINISTER OF LONG-TERM CARE, BUT OBVIOUSLY YOU'RE ONE OF A NUMBER OF PLAYERS... YOU TALKED ABOUT COORDINATION. YOU HAVE TO COORDINATE WITH THE MINISTER OF HEALTH, MINISTER OF FINANCE, THE PREMIER, PRESIDENT OF TREASURY BOARD. DO YOU HAVE SUPPORT FROM ALL OF THOSE PEOPLE TO DO WHAT NEEDS DOING?

Fullerton says EVERYONE IS LOOKING AT THE FUTURE AND SAYING, HOW DO WE MAKE THIS BETTER? THIS CANNOT GO ON. WE MUST TREAT OUR MOST VULNERABLE PEOPLE WITH THE RESPECT AND DIGNITY THAT THEY DESERVE. AND WE'VE COMMITTED TO THAT. YOU CAN SEE THAT WITH THE STAND-ALONE MINISTRY. HAS IT BEEN A CHALLENGE WITH COVID? IT'S AN UNDERSTATEMENT TO SAY THAT IT HAS. IT'S BEEN AN ABSOLUTE HEARTBREAKING. AND YET, WE HAVE TO BE DETERMINED AND COMMITTED, AND I KNOW THAT PEOPLE ARE BEHIND ME. I KNOW THAT MY MINISTERS ARE BEHIND ME. CAN WE MOVE FAST ENOUGH? THAT IS THE REAL CHALLENGE. I SAY IT AGAIN: WE HAVE TO MOVE IN COVID TIME. AND I SAY THIS TO MY MINISTRY STAFF. I SAY THIS TO MY COLLEAGUES. COVID DOESN'T WAIT. AND COVID... COVID TAKES ITS IMPACT RAPIDLY, AND I GO BACK TO ALL THE MEASURES THAT WE'VE TAKEN, AND WHEN ONE MEASURE WASN'T ENOUGH, WE'VE TAKEN ANOTHER...

Steve says OKAY. CAN I ASK WHETHER OR NOT, THE PREMIER REFERS TO THIS COMMAND TABLE, THE HEALTH COMMAND TABLE FROM WHICH HE GETS HIS ADVICE. DO YOU SIT ON THAT BODY?

Fullerton says WELL, INITIALLY, THE CONCEPT WAS TO KEEP ANY POLITICAL PERSON OUT. IT WAS FOR THEM TO FORMULATE THE MEDICAL ADVICE AND THEN PROVIDE THAT IN AN ORGANIZED WAY. THE MINISTRY OF HEALTH WAS THE LEAD. THE MINISTER OF HEALTH AT THE TOP, MY DEPUTY MINISTER WAS ON THAT. BUT I WAS NOT THERE. BUT I UNDERSTAND THAT BECAUSE YOU CAN'T HAVE EVERYBODY, YOU KNOW, TAKING A COMMUNICATION ROLE OR A DIFFERENT TACK...

The caption changes to "Preparing for the rest of the pandemic."

Steve says OKAY. BUT ARE THERE OTHER POLITICIANS... ARE THERE OTHER POLITICIANS ON THE COMMAND TABLE?

Fullerton says AT THE MOMENT, AND AGAIN, IT'S A CHAIN STRUCTURE RIGHT NOW. RIGHT NOW THERE IS A TABLE THAT I SIT AT WITH THE MINISTER OF HEALTH TO MAKE SURE THAT WE'RE GETTING UP-TO-DATE INFORMATION. AND I'VE ALSO MADE SURE THAT I WANT THAT TO BE A PLACE WHERE WE CAN ASK QUESTIONS. IT CAN'T JUST BE... IT NEEDS TO BE TWO-WAY COMMUNICATION SO WE CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT'S HAPPENING IN THE SECTOR. AND THERE'S ALSO THE OTHER TABLE, THE CENTRAL COORDINATION TABLE, THAT WAS REALLY TO COORDINATE MINISTRIES. AND SO I REALLY DO BELIEVE WE'RE ON BETTER FOOTING NOW. IN THE EARLY DAYS, THERE WAS A LOT OF INFORMATION COMING, AND INITIALLY THERE WAS VERY LITTLE SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION. BUT AS THERE'S MORE AND MORE SCIENTIFIC INFORMATION, WE'VE ADDED THE SCIENCE TABLE, THE PUBLIC HEALTH TABLE, THE INCIDENT MANAGEMENT SYSTEM TABLE. WE HAVE TO FIND WAYS TO COORDINATE AND MAKE SURE IT'S STREAMLINED AND QUICK AND ADAPTABLE. AND THAT'S BEEN A CHALLENGING PROCESS. I WILL BE ABSOLUTELY HONEST, THIS IS CONTINUOUS LEARNING. ABOUT YOU WE HAVE TO BE DETERMINED ALWAYS TO MAKE IT BETTER SO THAT WE CAN DO BETTER AND THAT WE CAN GET THE RESPONSES THAT WE NEED. AND I WOULD ALSO ADD THAT PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE, TO ANTICIPATE... I THINK THAT'S REALLY WHAT LEADERSHIP IS... IS TO ANTICIPATE. IT'S NOT ONLY TO DEAL WITH THE EVIDENCE, IT'S TO ALSO ANTICIPATE WHAT'S NEXT. AND THAT'S CHALLENGING...

Steve says LET ME ASK YOU, SPEAKING OF WHAT'S NEXT, ONE OF THE GUESTS FROM EARLIER, AMIT ARYA, HE'S A PHYSICIAN AND I'M SURE YOU KNOW HIM WELL. HE TALKED ABOUT THE NEED TO CREATE A KIND OF ENSHRINED RIGHTS OF FAMILIES AND CARE-GIVERS BECAUSE OF COURSE THERE WERE SO MANY OLDER PEOPLE WHO DIED ALONE BECAUSE FAMILY MEMBERS WERE NOT ALLOWED TO GO SEE THEM BECAUSE OF COVID. AND WE'RE DOWN TO OUR LAST MINUTE HERE, I'M AFRAID. BUT DO YOU THINK THE TIME HAS COME FOR A KIND OF CHARTER OF RIGHTS FOR FAMILY MEMBERS OF LONG-TERM CARE RESIDENTS SO THAT THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN AGAIN?

Fullerton says WELL, I DEFINITELY THINK THE RIGHTS OF RESIDENTS HAVE TO BE AT THE CENTRE. EVERYTHING WE DO IS ABOUT PUTTING THE RESIDENTS AT THE CENTRE. AND WE WERE REALLY WORKING WITH THE BEST MEDICAL...

Steve says NOT JUST RESIDENTS, THOUGH, FAMILY CARE-GIVERS AS WELL.

Fullerton says I AGREE. I AGREE. AND THAT'S WHY I WAS REALLY TRYING HARD TO GET THEM BACK IN. THOSE ESSENTIAL CARE-GIVERS, REALLY, THEY'RE CRITICAL. AND WE KNOW THAT THE EMOTIONAL WELL-BEING IS SO INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT. IT WAS HEART-BREAKING TO HAVE THAT DECISION MADE EARLIER TO CLOSE DOWN TO VISITORS AND CARE-GIVERS. THIS IS A REALLY IMPORTANT POINT, I BELIEVE, IN OUR UNDERSTANDING OF WELL-BEING, ANDS ISOLATION THAT PEOPLE WENT THROUGH WAS VERY HEART-BREAKING. AND THAT'S WHY WE'VE SAID, EVERY RESIDENT CAN DESIGNATE TWO CARE-GIVERS AND MAKE SURE THAT THEY CAN BE TRAINED IN THE CASE OF AN OUTBREAK, ONE RESIDENT'S ESSENTIAL CARE-GIVER CAN ENTER THE HOME, THEY WILL BE TRAINED IN THE PROPER EQUIPMENT, THE PROPER PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT AND PROTECTIVE MEASURES AND WE'RE REQUIRING THEM TO BE TESTED AS WELL. ONE CASE GETTING INTO THAT LONG-TERM CARE HOME CAN BE DEVASTATING...

Steve says UNDERSTOOD.

Fullerton says THE ESSENTIAL CARE-GIVERS ARE ESSENTIAL. THAT'S WHY WE'VE CALLED THEM ESSENTIAL. THEY NEED TO BE THERE.

The caption changes to "Producer: Cara Stern, @carastern."

Steve says I BET YOU'VE GOT OTHER THINGS TO DO TODAY BESIDES TALK TO ME. WE'RE GOING TO LET YOU GO NOW, WITH OUR THANKS FOR SPENDING SO MUCH TIME WITH US ON TVO TONIGHT. MERRILEE FULLERTON, MINISTER OF LONG-TERM CARE AND THE PC MEMBER FOR KANATA-CARLTON. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

The caption changes to "Subscribe to The Agenda Podcast: tvo.org/theagenda."

Fullerton says THANKS YOU SO MUCH. TAKE CARE.

Watch: Queen's Park Plans for Long-Term Care