OTTAWA -- The Red Cross has been summoned to assist staff at seven long-term care homes in the Ottawa region during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair tweeted that the federal government approved a request for help on Sunday.

A statement from the Ministry of Public Safety says the Ontario government requested the assistance. Which homes will receive help from the Red Cross has yet to be determined.

"In response to a Request for Assistance from the Ontario Minister of Health and Minister of Long-term Care, the Government of Canada is supporting the Canadian Red Cross (CRC) to deploy resources into seven long-term care facilities in the Ottawa-Champlain region," a ministry spokesperson said. "This is part of the CRC’s critical role in response to COVID-19. Details of the Red Cross deployment are being finalized and will be announced soon."

While they did not say precisely what staff would be doing in Ottawa, the Red Cross offered an example of recent activities in a statement to CTV News.

"One example is the role of the Red Cross in long-term care homes in Quebec, where Red Cross teams have been providing essential personal care services, assisting with daily living activities of seniors, and organizing and delivering personal protective equipment and prevention of disease transmission training," the statement said. "In addition, Red Cross health experts have offered technical advice on epidemic prevention control."

In a statement to CTV News, Ottawa Public Health said they welcome the news.

"Ottawa Public Health is appreciative of the offer to support infection prevention and control measures at select LTC’s in Ottawa and surrounding area," a spokesperson said. 

Long-term care neglected as government prepared for pandemic, inquiry hears

Newly published reports about an inquiry into the pandemic response at long-term care homes in the province include testimony accusing the Ontario government of neglecting long-term care in favour of shoring up hospitals when the pandemic hit.

Doctors from the non-profit Ontario Long-Term Care Clinicians organization testified before the inquiry at the end of September and detailed how ill-prepared the sector was for the spread of the novel coronavirus. The inquiry isn't open to the public but transcripts of testimony are posted online days later.

Dr. Rhonda Collins, the chief medical officer of Revera, which owns numerous long-term care facilities across North America including Carlingview Manor in Ottawa, told the inquiry that many homes were directed to keep residents out of hospitals as much as possible in order to free up space in hospitals.

In Ottawa, 243 people have died in outbreaks at long-term care homes. There have been 297 total deaths in Ottawa linked to COVID-19.

Ottawa's Carlingview Manor lost 60 residents to the disease in the spring. The Madonna Care Community long-term care home, operated by Sienna Living, saw 47 residents and two employees die of COVID-19. Both Carlingview Manor and Madonna Care Community are again experiencing outbreaks. One staff member at Carlingview is listed as positive on Ottawa Public Health's COVID-19 dashboard, but figures for Madonna Care Community are currently blank.

Ottawa's West End Villa long-term care home, run by Extendicare, is currently in outbreak status. The outbreak that began Aug. 30 has claimed 19 lives and has led to 125 COVID-19 infections.

There are 14 long-term care homes in Ottawa currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks.

With files from The Canadian Press.