Ontario has fewer nursing home inspectors than U.S. States

Ontario fares poorly compared to other jurisdictions when it comes to inspecting its 641 nursing homes.

Last week we pointed out the impossibility of about 70 nursing home inspectors being able to investigate nearly 6,000 complaints and critical incidents as well as conduct 120 in-depth resident quality inspections. At that rate, it will take more than five years before every Ontario long-term care home receives a thorough inspection.

While using a made-in-the-USA inspection regime, it is not putting the same number of inspectors on the job as most US states.

Faced with public outrage over the treatment of seniors in their nursing homes, the State of Illinois recently passed a new law requiring one inspector for every 500 beds. If Ontario had the same law, the number of inspectors would more than double to 154.

The State of New Jersey uses 12 dedicated inspection teams including a team leader, registered professional nurse(s), a nutrition consultant, and a registered pharmacist. On inspections, the teams may be joined by other professionals as necessary. Complaint surveys are conducted by a separate unit consisting registered nurses. These teams do thorough inspections of 400 homes per year compared to Ontario’s target of 120. New Jersey has a population of 8.7 million compared to Ontario’s 13 million.

In California, where inspectors are called “surveyors,” in 2010 there were more than 600 surveyors working in teams at 18 district offices, performing inspections at more than 1,275 nursing homes. They also responded to 6,650 complaints.

To be eligible for Medicare and Medicaid payments, American homes must be inspected regularly, most on an annual basis. But not in Ontario, where Health Minister Deb Matthews has indicated annual inspections are not necessary, despite a recent Long Term Care Homes Act that says otherwise.

Deb Matthews would have a hard time understanding Missouri, where the homes have to undergo two inspections per year. After all, it is the “show me” state.

Even in Iowa, where 10 nursing home inspectors were cut as a result of the State’s own version of austerity, on a per capita basis the remaining inspectors on the job looks closer to Ontario’s present numbers. Iowa State legislators are saying seniors will be placed at risk by the cuts. Iowa will be left with 28 inspectors for 30,000 beds, or almost one inspector for 1,000 beds. Ontario has about 70 inspectors for 77,000 beds.

Some in Iowa are suggesting the cuts are in fact motivated by contributions from the long-term care industry to the Governor’s last election campaign. Most of the salaries of these workers would be paid by the Federal government. Iowa only saves about $125,000 a year by cutting the 10 inspectors.

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