Shed light on abuse cases [seniors]
TheStar.com – opinion/editorials
Published On Thu Nov 17 2011
The rape of a 71-year-old woman in a Toronto care home — allegedly by a male nurse — is a matter for the courts to deal with. But it can’t end there. Castleview Wychwood Towers and every other nursing home across this province must comb through the details of this case, focus on the warning signs that were seemingly ignored and make certain that lessons are learned.
The nurse who is now charged with sexual assault was singled out two months earlier for regularly disappearing on shift “without explanation.” Why on earth was that not followed up on?
The 77,000 Ontarians who live in long-term care homes are some of our most vulnerable citizens. We cannot tolerate a culture of secrecy inside these homes. There are no “judgment calls” when it comes to reporting abuse. It is not acceptable to deal with problems internally. And staff should never be punished for speaking out
But these are the very issues that an investigation by the Star’s Moira Welsh and Jesse McLean uncovered. And not just in the atrocious case of rape highlighted in Thursday’s paper.
In a North York nursing home two staff members knew that a colleague had assaulted a resident and yet did not report it. The Star uncovered at least a dozen assaults which, according to government inspectors, should have triggered an immediate call to the police. But officials either delayed or didn’t make the call at all.
Ontario’s new inspection system is far better than what preceded it. But it relies on resident complaints and what should be a reasonable expectation that staff are vigilant about watching out for abuse (by staff or residents) and that home operators report it honestly.
The case of a nurse in Cornwall who was hounded from her job with the city for “overstepping her responsibilities” after she reported abuse at a nursing home is revelatory, and troubling. Reporting abuse is everyone’s responsibility. The only way to err is to stay silent.
Inspection reports themselves also need an overhaul. Right now a detailed version is prepared for officials and a sanitized version is posted for public view. They commonly say that a home “failed to protect” a resident from abuse but provide too little information for people to know what happened or to know what to look out for in future. That’s not good enough. The reports must disclose sufficient information to help ensure transparency and safety for residents.
For all the positive changes that have been made, nursing homes are still opaque institutions where only the most dogged of family and friends can figure out what’s going on. Our seniors deserve better.
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