Today, Premier Doug Ford issued the following statement reflecting on the province’s response to an unprecedented international public health crisis:
“Three months ago, our government made the difficult, but necessary decision to enact a provincial Declaration of Emergency in response to the outbreak of COVID-19, closing down non-essential businesses and limiting organized public events and social gatherings. It marked the beginning of one of the darkest periods in our province’s history.
Our government, joined by thousands of frontline health care workers, volunteers, businesses, and the 14.5 million people who call this province home, rallied immediately to stop the spread of COVID-19. The collective call to action was inspiring, but as we all know, it has been a long and difficult road with losses far greater than anyone could have imagined.
I am proud and grateful for how everyone from every corner of the province has gone above and beyond in the face of this global crisis.
Since the first sign of the outbreak, we have been laser-focused on supporting our frontline workers and building the capacity that our health care system needed to respond to this threat. Thanks to the diligent work of our hospitals and their top-notch staff, Ontario now has a total of 21,425 acute care beds and 3,276 critical care beds, 2,583 of which are equipped with ventilators. During the peak of the outbreak, the system freed up between 5,000 and 6,000 acute care beds, and had preparedness plans in place to go up to 11,000 acute care beds if needed.
Within weeks, we built a network of over 30 laboratories to ramp up our testing capacity, starting at about 3,000 per day in March to reaching over 20,000 a day in recent weeks. Ontario now leads the country in testing capacity. Public health units have also increased their capacity to conduct rapid case and contact tracing, respond to outbreaks, and support local response efforts.
We have been tireless in our efforts to ensure frontline workers have the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to carry out their heroic work in hospitals, long-term care homes and other care settings. We mobilized the manufacturing might of Ontario to make the PPE we need here at home and to showcase “Ontario Made” as the gold standard worldwide for quality medical supplies and equipment. Through the Ontario Together portal, thousands of leads on emergency supplies have resulted in more than $610 million in purchases of critical equipment, including 10,040 ventilators, 123 million masks, four million face shields, 173 million surgical gloves, and 21 million gowns.
To fortify the iron ring of protection around our seniors, we have provided our long-term care homes with $243 million in emergency funding to hire staff, purchase supplies, and increase capacity. Thanks to our hospital partners, rapid response teams are working with 150 of our long-term care homes across the province to support infection protection and control and staffing needs. We are also incredibly grateful to our brave men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces who have been deployed to provide critical support in seven of our long-term care homes.
Above all, the people of this province have shown the true Ontario spirit with countless individuals volunteering in their communities and caring for those in need. Thanks to our partnership with Spark Ontario, over 4,300 volunteers have signed up to help people affected by COVID-19. Thousands of volunteers, including retired nurses and medical students, put up their hand to manage the phone lines at Telehealth Ontario and assist with case management and contact tracing. Through Ontario’s Health Workforce Matching Portal, over 24,400 volunteers have asked to be matched with organizations in need of help, including our long-term care homes.
As we work to find a treatment or vaccine for COVID-19, we must remain ready for any scenario. I will continue to press the federal government to provide the necessary long-term and sustained funding commitment that will ensure Ontario has the strong health care system and the strong economic recovery it deserves. Our province alone faces up to $23 billion in additional cost pressures related to health care, protecting our most vulnerable seniors, and supporting our municipal partners in delivering critical services. Ottawa must come to the table with serious commitments to funding support.
I want to thank each and every person in Ontario for their collective efforts during this unprecedented time. As we gradually reopen our economy, we will continue to support Ontario families and businesses, so they can get back on their feet quickly and get back to work safely. These are the challenges that define a province and its people. While tough times still lie ahead of us, if we stick together and keep looking out for each other, we will come back stronger than ever before.”