OTTAWA -- Ontario’s auditor general released a scathing report Wednesday on the COVID-19 response in the province’s long-term care homes, but the findings were no surprise to many.

Ontario wasn’t ready for COVID-19, didn’t learn lessons from he SARS outbreak, and the province's decision to delay implementing mandatory COVID measures may have contributed to the devastation, the report concluded.

“There should be no surprises in the findings or recommendations of this report,” said Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.

But the report leaves many questions still for many families with loved ones in long-term care.

“They do studies, they sit in board rooms, they talk about it, we’re, what, a year, 14 months into this pandemic? What’s changed? Will anything change,” said Melanie Dea, whose husband is a resident at Extendicare Medex in Nepean.

She’s spent months without seeing him due to outbreaks.

“They say a squeaky wheel gets the oil. I don’t know, this wheel’s been squeaking for a long time,” she said.

Among the report’s findings in homes across Ontario:

  • There were instances of three or four residents sharing a room despite ministry standards of two per room;
  • There were both insufficient staff and training for homes to provide appropriate care;
  • Infection control and prevention methods were applied inconsistently; and
  • There were “problematic” enforcement practices by the Ministry of Long-term Care.

“The crowding issue is one that experts have commented had that not been the case there might have been less of a mortality rate in the LTC sector,” said Lysyk.

“The responsibility — it’s kind of like running into a burning building, you’re trying to save it, and you’re doing your very best, but the fire had started well beyond the pandemic,” said Minister of Long-term Care Merrilee Fullerton.

The ministry blamed previous governments on Wednesday. Fullerton was criticized for not taking responsibility or action.

“You can build as many fancy facilities as you want but if you don’t address the root problems within these homes, the working conditions, the absent standard of care in addition to the laughable penalties for non compliance, nothing is going to change,” said Dr. Vivian Stamatopulous, long-term care researcher.

To date, there have been 22,095 COVID-19 cases and 3,767 deaths in long-term care facilities across Ontario. In Ottawa, there have been 1,740 cases and 287 deaths.

Those stats leave many like Dea pleading for change.

“We need to make them a priority, they gave to us all their years, we now need to give back to them,” said Dea.