The presence of COVID-19 in Canada has been felt through all communities, but those living in long-term care facilities have been most significantly affected. The virus’s exponential infection rate, coupled with the pre-existing medical conditions of many of those who reside in these care facilities, has resulted in high death rates and little insight on how best to protect the elderly community going forward.

On May 19, 2020, Premier Doug Ford announced the Ontario Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission (the “Commission”) in response to the devastating impact COVID-19 has had on residents and staff of long-term care homes.

The Commission has a mandate to investigate the spread of COVID-19 in long-term care facilities, the adequacy of efforts taken by the facilities to prevent transmission during the first wave of the pandemic, and how various elements of the existing system may impact the spread of COVID-19 within long-term care homes. The commission aims to provide recommendations to the government regarding the health and safety of residents and staff of these facilities and how to better protect them from potential outbreaks in the coming months.

The establishment of the Commission emphasizes the need for quick and decisive action in response to the virus’s overwhelming effect on Ontario’s elderly population. Though the virus’s impact remains prominent at this time, a second wave of COVID-19 is anticipated in the coming months. Consequently, the Commission will work diligently to provide the government with a final report by April 30, 2021.

Three commissioners will lead the investigation. The Honourable Justice Frank N. Marrocco was appointed as Chair of the Commission. Associate Chief Justice Marrocco has been involved in high-profile matters in the past, including as the lead counsel for the Province of Ontario in the Walkerton inquiry. Justice Marrocco was appointed to the Superior Court of Justice in 2005. Angela Coke and Dr. Jack Kitts will accompany Associate Chief Justice Marrocco on the Commission.

Angela Coke is a former senior executive of the Ontario Public Service (OPS), where she spent 27 years committed to the transformation of government operations. Ms. Coke retired in 2017, having previously served as the Deputy Minister, Ministry of Government and Consumer Services, where she played a leadership role on a range of government and public service priorities.

Dr. Jack Kitts completed a three-year tour of duty as a medical officer in the Canadian Armed Forces. He later returned to school for specialty training in anesthesia. In 1995, he was appointed Chief of Anesthesia and Associate Professor at the University of Ottawa. Within three years, he was appointed Vice-president of Medical Affairs and led the medical staff through a large restructuring, in which three hospitals and five large programs merged into the Ottawa Hospital.

Given the qualifications of the members of the Commission and the importance of taking any possible steps to protect the lives of residents of Ontario’s long-term care facilities, the creation of the Commission appears to be a promising first step in implementing necessary measures to enhance the ability of long-term care facilities to adequately respond to the pandemic and to protect their residents and staff once the current health care crisis has passed.

Thank you for reading!

Suzana Popovic-Montag and Nick Esterbauer