Are “high hazard” nursing homes “efficient?”

In BC they have a ratings system for residential care homes, or what we would refer to as “long-term care” homes in Ontario. The ratings look at complaints and critical incidents and determine whether a home is low, medium or high hazard. The hazard rating determines how often the home will be inspected. A high hazard home in BC can count on a surprise inspection about every three months.

In Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews would simply rather not know.

She has too few inspectors, and the complaint and critical incident inspections are taking way too long – a point the Ombudsman made in 2010. The more in-depth resident quality inspections are taking so long it will take more than five years to fully inspect all the homes, that is “if” they get inspected at all.

When we have discussed the issue of too few nursing home inspectors, the media asks us if it’s realistic to increase the number of inspectors given the “economic situation.”

Are Ontarians really willing to throw the frail and elderly under the bus to preserve the tax cuts given to them by Mike Harris, Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty?

For how little in savings are we prepared to turn away from evidence of human suffering experienced by Ontario’s seniors?

The State of Illinois faced a similar situation. The State was broke, but there was a public outcry over press reports highlighting the plight of residents in these homes. Illinois decided to set a standard of one inspector for every 500 long-term care beds. That meant they had to hire more than 70 new inspectors at a cost of about $5 million. If Ontario did the same, we’d have 154 inspectors, not the roughly 70 that exist today.

If Deb Matthews was thinking this through, she would realize there is a cost to neglect and abuse, including higher hospitalization rates for long-term care residents.

It also means that the province is paying its share of the per diem for residents and not getting value for that money.

If Ontario were to spend a similar amount as Illinois on new inspectors, it would represent less than half of one per cent of the increase in funding budgeted for health care this year.

It would cost about 7 per cent of what it takes to administer the Local Health Integration Networks.

This is not about the economy. It’s not about money. Former Health Minister George Smitherman shed tears and promised a revolution in long-term care. We didn’t get it. For Dalton McGuinty, clearly he just doesn’t care.

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