Ontario's Health Minister claims AG report is 'a mischaracterization' of pandemic response

Henrietta Brewer
November 26, 2020

The government announced earlier this week it planned to extend Williams' term - which was set to end with his retirement in February - until September.

Recommendations made in previous auditor general's reports to regularly update emergency response plans and address weaknesses in public health lab and information systems were also not acted on, the report said. It's actually wrong. This does nothing but undermine our entire health team. "I won't stand for this".

"If there are financial issues. I'm here", Ford said. She also said Williams has her "complete confidence", and has "done extremely well" in his job.

"While we welcome certain other recommendations from the auditor general, many in areas where we were continuing to make improvements, we have different views on various aspects of her report".

Elliot also said she took issue with Lysyk's description of Williams' performance.

"(Williams) has the knowledge and experience to continue to lead us through this pandemic", Elliott said. "I know what is contained in the report". Ultimately the buck stops with me, but Dr. Williams has been riding shotgun with me since day one.

Decision-making was slow and directives were often weak or unclear, the report found, leading local health units to act on their own, in some cases.

In it, she highlights issues and situations where the province "could have done better in responding to the pandemic".

"The Auditor General's job is not to be the chief medical officer, not to be the Ombudsman, not to sit there and give us health advice".

Premier Doug Ford reacted angrily to the report during his daily press briefing, saying it was undermining the province's response to the "unprecedented" pandemic.

The report cites a number of contributing factors including outdated emergency plans, insufficient staff and significant changeover in Ontario's Provincial Emergency Management Office leaders, a lack of lab surge capacity, and outdated IT systems.

- The Health Command Table which advises the government began with 21 members, growing to 83 by August and now involves more than 500 people. The report found that the so-called Health Command table had ballooned to an un wieldy size. However, "no fulsome documentation" of those conversations exist, according to the report. "Infectious disease experts released advice that did not follow the precautionary principle - to err on the side of caution until the science becomes clear - and our patients, long-term care residents and Ontario RNs and health-care workers have paid the ultimate price for that".

Lysyk said numerous issues her office identified would have been avoidable if the province had acted on lessons from the 2003 SARS outbreak.

Lysyk found that Williams was barred from using the powers of his office to take actions that could have saved lives.

"This is not what we saw in our audit work; instead we saw delays and confusion in decision-making", the auditor's findings say.

Numerous unaddressed problems Lysyk was referring to were recommendations in the 2007 SARS commission report.

Opposition parties at Queen's Park also responded to the report on Wednesday with sharp criticism of the government. "He stood up every day at 1 p.m. and lied".

Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca admitted "there were things that could have been done differently" while his party steered the province, but said the Tories have nonetheless mismanaged the health crisis.

"(Ford has) betrayed Ontario families and listened to politicians and pollsters, not the top doctors.

"These new rapid tests are gamechangers in the fight against COVID-19", said Premier Ford. She did not say when that report will be ready.

Other reports by iNewsToday