Have a complaint about abuse at a retirement home? The telephone line you are required to call is operated by the trade association run by the retirement homes – a conflict of interest according to the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE).
This spring the Ontario government introduced a new Retirement Homes Act, promising to immediately enact provisions to protect seniors living in these homes from abuse.
While the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (RHRA) is being set up as part of that Act, the public is being advised to call the Complaints Response and Information Service line (CRIS).
The CRIS line is operated by the Ontario Retirement Community Association (ORCA), the private sector trade association for retirement home operators. That means if you have a complaint about a retirement home, you have to take it back to the advocates for that home.
ACE is concerned that CRIS will continue to operate the line after this initial set up period, triaging complaints and deciding what gets forwarded on to the independent authority responsible for licensing and inspecting retirement homes.
“ACE has raised this concern with the Office of the Minister Responsible for Seniors given that what is considered abuse and neglect may be different from the perspective of the operators of the CRIS line, the tenants (residents) of the homes, the home operators, and the Authority,” writes Judith Wahl, executive director of ACE in the centre latest newsletter.
ACE is also asking questions about whether complaints to the CRIS line operators will be required to be kept confidential from ORCA – the operator’s employer.
ACE is calling for an independent call line to be maintained directly by the regulator authority, and not by the trade association.
Retirement homes have become more populated with seniors with higher levels of acuity in the absence of available spaces in Ontario’s regulated nursing home sector.
Retirement homes are also being used by hospitals to off-load “alternate level of care” patients who are unable to go home on a short-term basis. The government says they are protecting these patients by applying the Long Term Care Act to these specific beds.