World News – CA – Ontario Auditor-General condemns provincial « unorganized » COVID-19 response

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Ontario’s COVID-19 response was « disorganized and inconsistent » as the government withdrew key public health officials, the provincial auditor-general reveals in a scathing new report.

A special report by Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk released on Wednesday reveals a number of issues with the government’s handling of the first wave of coronavirus and concludes that Ontario is slower and more « reactive » than other provinces was.

The report states that the command structure set up by Ontario – based on the « command table » which consists largely of bureaucrats the government refused to name publicly – caused confusion and was « too cumbersome. ». Nor was it dominated by public health expertise. ”

It rose from 21 to 90 and eventually to 500 members, the report said, and didn’t meet via video conference until July – months after the pandemic started.

woman. Lysyk also criticized Chief Medical Officer of Health David Williams for failing to use his full legal powers to get the virus under control.

« The Chief Medical Officer of Health and other public health officials have not guided Ontario’s response to COVID-19, » the report said.

« Also, the command structure was not led by public health expertise, and Public Health Ontario played a lesser role in the province’s pandemic response. ”

The Auditor General’s indictment of Ontario’s reaction stands in stark contrast to the repeated comments made by Premier Doug Ford, who praised his government plan and was supported by Dr.. . Williams in brilliant words. Despite objections from the NDP, his government is pushing for the top doctor’s contract to be extended until next September.

With 34 public health units operating independently across the province, the provincial response has been « disorganized and inconsistent due to differences in management and operations among public health units, » the report said.

Many of the problems in Ontario have been long-standing, the report said: outdated provincial contingency plans, staff shortages, and systemic issues related to surge laboratory capacity and outdated IT systems.

woman. Lysyk told the previous liberal government that mr. Ford’s Progressive Conservatives, defeated in 2018, “failed to learn important lessons from the 2003 Ontario SARS outbreak, which would have accelerated decision-making in the province, as well as numerous recommendations for addressing weaknesses in the public laboratory system.

The auditor-general said testing, case management and contact tracing are not happening in a timely manner, particularly in the Ottawa, Toronto, and Peel and York regions.

Their report said the Ontario Province Emergency Management Bureau suffered from leadership changes, outdated contingency plans, and staff shortages and was « unable » to take the lead when the province declared COVID-19 an emergency on March 17.

The government hired an outside consultant to create a new governance structure. This led to a delay in which a newly created “central coordination table” was not introduced until 11. April met. Other provinces, the auditor-general said, had simply activated their existing emergency plans.

And the problems remain. Even now, according to the auditor-general, the provincial emergency office “has not yet carried out detailed planning or with local authorities to plan subsequent waves of the pandemic. ”

One of the key lessons learned from the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome outbreak that was never implemented is that the Council reports that governments should adhere to the « precautionary principle » and take decisive action early on. Instead, according to the Auditor-General, the response to the current pandemic has been hampered by “delays and conflict and confusion in decision-making. ”

According to the report, the Ministry of Health has been unable to improve its « fragmented » management of the laboratory sector because laboratory testing for COVID-19 still followed an « essentially manual, paper-based process ». ”

According to the report, the Attorney General’s Department has failed to implement the Auditor General’s three-year-old recommendations to regularly update emergency plans. And the Ministry of Health also left recommendations from the 2003, 2007 and 2014 audits on updating public health information systems on shelves. These IT issues impacted the COVID-19 response, according to Wednesday’s report, as the current systems have « limited functionality » for the main tasks of case management and the tracking of contacts on confirmed cases.

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Ontario, Ontario Auditor General Doug Ford

World News – CA – Ontario Auditor General condemns the province’s « disorganized » COVID-19 response
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Ref: https://www.theglobeandmail.com

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