Ontario must step up inspection of nursing homes
TheStar.com – opinion/editorial – Long-term care
November 22, 2012
For the increasingly fragile and vulnerable residents of Ontario nursing homes, life was supposed to get better.
After years of Star investigations into abuse and neglect in Ontario’s 630 long-term care homes, the Liberal government promised a new inspection system so rigorous it would end the trauma that destroys some residents’ final years.
As it turns out, those were little more than promising words. Only a fraction of nursing homes have actually faced that in-depth inspection since the ministry’s new rules began in July 2010. In fact, advocates say, most homes will face the tough scrutiny only once every five years, instead of the government’s original promise for annual investigations.
It’s sad to say, but under the old maligned system at least every home got a yearly inspection. It wasn’t perfect, but it uncovered problems like pressure ulcers, dirty diapers or residents who went hungry from bad food.
Now, any visit by an inspector is considered an “annual” inspection, even if it’s related to a complaint about burned toast.
What a shame for the government that promised a “revolution” in long-term care. Ontario needs to fix this problem immediately and for once, the solution is simple: Hire more inspectors to do the hard-core — annual — inspections.
The union that represents the existing 81 inspectors says 50 new hires will cost roughly $5 million more a year, not a lot in a health budget of $46 billion. In a field of competing demands for money, it’s not an extravagant request, especially when additional inspectors could prevent abuse from happening long before serious harm is done.
Ontario’s inspectors now race from one home to the next, checking out individual complaints. Between July 2010 and Nov. 10, they did 5,500 inspections but only 95 of those were the in-depth kind.
To be fair, some were related to abuse but many others were more trivial concerns. And while it is good that more people are speaking out, the backlog of individual complaints has stopped inspectors from making proactive change.
The Star has investigated nursing homes abuse for a decade. If one axiom proves true it is this: Homes like secrecy. In fact, some thrive on it. If staff can cover up allegations of abuse or neglect, many will do just that. It is the residents who suffer, and based on the aging of our society, it won’t be long before many of us endure the same fate.
If Ontario must hire more inspectors to stop nursing home abuses, then it will be worth every penny.
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