For more than 30 minutes a resident of The Wexford went on a rampage, roaming the halls of the Scarborough long-term care facility, battering one woman before leaving his own floor and heading upstairs to kill another.
It wasn’t the first time that this resident had been involved in a violent assault at the home. A psychiatrist had assessed the resident as a chronic risk to others and recommended he be placed in a psychiatric group home better suited to manage his behaviour.
Despite a scathing Ministry report on the incident, the last time The Wexford had undergone a detailed inspection by the Ministry of Health was 2009.
Last year Health Minister Deb Matthews had said homes that generated few complaints or critical incidents would not likely undergo such an inspection, since the new resident quality inspection (RQI) regime would only apply to those homes that raised the most red flags.
We have previously reported that the government has failed to add enough inspectors to address the more than 2,300 annual complaints and critical incidents and be able to do team-based proactive resident quality inspections. An RQI can take up to 17 days to conduct involving a team of specialized inspections staff.
In fact, at the rate they were going last year, it would take the Ministry more than five years to cover all the homes with an RQI. That’s way too long.
While the Long Term Care Act calls for an annual inspection, the Ministry believes a narrow inspection based on a complaint is sufficient. This is even though inspectors are specifically instructed to focus only on the complaint. When a home goes without a visit during the year, a much lighter general inspection takes place based on a handful of basic criteria. That’s not the same as a RQI.
So when Matthews says that there is an inspector in every home every year, she is not totally incorrect. It’s the type of inspection that really matters.
This week the matter hit the floor of the legislature, where NDP leader Andrea Horwath noted 90 per cent of homes in Windsor-Essex have never had a full RQI inspection.
“It’s clear that this government is failing at its job to protect seniors,” she said.
Matthews did acknowledge that she has asked ministry officials to come forward with some options on how to strengthen inspections in long-term care homes.
Here’s one more, just in case the obvious has not yet occurred: hire enough inspectors to get the job done.
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There were many occasions when I arrived or departed from the home where my mother was living that I didn’t see a staff member. There was no one to protect her if someone had assaulted her. It was especially serious following a meal, as the staff left to eat their meal then. No one was around for about an hour. When temporary staff filled in from the agency there were problems too. They were careless, didn’t seem to read the instructions for patients who all had special needs. Bruising, improper transfers, cuts and abrasions to fragile skin, diapers so wet they leaked onto the wheelchair, call bells not answered. Administration listened to problems, but remedies depended on cooperative staff, and I learned to not trust that. Some were wonderful! Others were in the wrong profession.