Ontario lagged behind other provinces when it first took action to slow the spread of COVID-19 and, since then, the provincial government response to the pandemic has been marked by “delays and conflict.”
That’s according to the province’s Auditor General, Bonnie Lysyk, who released a new report on Wednesday.
In it, she highlights issues and situations where the province “could have done better in responding to the pandemic.”
She says the process was bogged down from the start, since provincial emergency management plans had become outdated by the time the first cases arrived in Ontario.
The report also points to an increasingly “cumbersome” command structure, which is not led by public health expertise.
The Health Command Table, for instance, started at 21 members, but quickly ballooned to 90 participants. In total, the report says there are now more than 500 people involved in the command table.
Over the course of the pandemic, the report found that the province’s chief medical officer of health did not fully exercise his powers or issue consistent orders to local public health units.
Lysyk also raises concerns that lab testing, case management and contact tracing have been too sluggish to effectively contain the virus. She notes every health unit except for one failed to meet the province’s target for reporting test results between January and August.
Surges of the virus significantly impacted provincial testing labs, which were not fully integrated with the public health information system.
The report says that several key lessons learned from the 2003 SARS outbreak had not been implemented and were not followed during the response.
To read the full report, click here.