COVID changes affecting health service providers & LTC homes

Recent Changes to Limitation Periods due to COVID-19
March 24, 2020
Recent changes affecting matters at the Labour Relations Board due to COVID-19
March 28, 2020

March 28, 2020 update

The Ministry of Long-Term Care has filed a new emergency order (the “Order”) to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak in long-term care homes (“LTCs”).

A Toronto Star report on the new measures notes that “the order removes training requirements for workers, allows homes to bring in volunteers and eliminates the need for administrators to report most complaints to the ministry.” The order does not specify how long the new measures will remain in place, but the Ministry told the Star “It will last for 14 days and the ministry still has regulatory oversight over long-term care homes.”

The Order amends over a dozen regulations and authorizes LTCs to take “any reasonably necessary measure… to respond to, prevent and alleviate the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) in a long-term care home.”

The Order also allows LTCs to “fill any staff position with the person who, in their reasonable opinion, has the adequate skills, training and knowledge to perform the duties required of that position.” In addition, the Order exempts LTCs from training and orientation requirements “provided that they ensure staff and volunteers take measures to ensure resident care and safety.”

Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario, Candace Rennick, is concerned by the sweeping measures in the Order: “It appears that these measures have basically opened the doors and said ‘just have at it, do whatever you can to get bodies to help people.’ And that is going to put more people at risk.”

March 24 update

The Government of Ontario recently passed two Regulations affecting employees of health service providers and long-term care homes in the province. On March 21 and March 23, 2020, respectively, the Government of Ontario passed O. Reg 74/20 and O. Reg 77/20 (the “Regulations”) pursuant to subsection 7.0.2(2) of the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (the “Act”).

The Regulations authorize health service providers and long-term care providers (the “Employer”) as provided in the Connecting Care Act to take any reasonably necessary measures to respond to, prevent and alleviate the outbreak of COVID-19. The Regulations will be in place for 14 days (as per 7.08 of the Act) but may be renewed for an additional 14 days and may be extended after that by a vote of the Legislature.

It applies to the staffing, assignment of work and redeployment of staff and includes work assignments and scheduling.  To be clear, the Regulations override existing collective agreement provisions that may apply to these areas and exempts the Employer from complying with collective agreement provisions governing lay-offs, seniority/service and bumping provisions.

The Regulations authorize health service providers and long-term care homes to, in part, implement redeployment plans that can include redeploying staff to different work sites, changing work assignments, canceling vacations and other leaves, using volunteers to perform bargaining unit work, and training volunteers to perform bargaining unit work.

The Regulations also authorize the Employer to suspend the grievance procedure for the duration of the Order for, at present, 14 days.