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Ontario long-term care homes in jeopardy as insurance providers not covering infections in 2021

Last Updated Oct 20, 2020 at 3:02 pm EST

A resident and a worker watch as 150 nursing union members show support at Orchard Villa Long-Term Care in Pickering, Ontario on Monday June 1, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

After facing an intense battle with the first wave of COVID-19, and currently dealing with outbreaks as a result of the second wave of the virus, Ontario’s long-term care homes are about to face another devastating blow: the loss of commercial liability insurance coverage.

According to the Ontario Long-Term Care Association (OLTCA), which represents 70 per cent of Ontario’s long-term care homes, the sector is in jeopardy because insurance companies will not be covering infectious spreads by next year and long-term care homes can’t operate without insurance.

The CEO of the OLTCA, Donna Duncan is asking the federal government for a “federal liability insurance backstop program” to help stabilize the sector.

In a letter dated October 15, she says the impact of the loss of this coverage has the “potential to devastate our long-term care sector and our broader health care system and displace a majority of residents at a critical moment.”

Laura Tamblyn Watts, president and CEO of CanAge, a national seniors’ advocacy group agrees. She says unless the provincial and federal governments can find a way to provide insurance for these care homes, she doesn’t see a way for them to stay operational.

“At this point, insurance is provincial but of course there’s also a shared ability for the federal government to step in,” she says. “Right now, the insurance providers, of which is about five for long-term homes have given notice, they will no longer be covering infectious spread by next year. And that means that long term care homes will not be allowed to legally operate, unless they can find some way of getting insurance.”

Watch: Seniors’ advocate says government needs to find a solution to long-term care home insurance issue

The OLTCA says there are only five insurers offering long-term care commercial liability policies. Those will be subject to renewal on or about December 31, 2020.

But as Tamblyn explains, the issue not only a problem for Ontario’s long-term care homes, but across the country. Main insurers work across Canada, and they are the ones not wanting to cover for infectious spread.

“The only other alternative is to follow something like hospitals, where they have their own insurance. But I don’t think it would be economically viable for the sector. So this is an issue where the provinces and territories, and the feds are going to have to work together, or there will not be any functioning long-term care homes by spring of 2021.”

There are 625 long-term care homes in Ontario. The first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc across Ontario’s long-term care homes killing nearly 2,000 residents. An independent commission is currently examining how the COVID-19 virus spread so quickly amongst the sector.