Well that didn’t take long.
Last week Health Minister Deb Matthews said she had asked officials to come forward with options on how to improve inspections in the province’s nursing homes.
This was the opening we had been looking for after a year of raising concerns around the lack of inspection staff to keep the homes accountable and residents safe. With existing inspections staff, it would have taken more than five years for every Ontario long-term care home to receive a detailed resident quality inspection (RQI).
With more than 2,000 complaints and critical incidents to investigate each year, it was impossible for the province-wide staff of about 80 inspectors (about 65 active in the field) to carry out the detailed proactive work they knew needed to be done.
A single RQI can involve three inspectors and take up to 17 days to conduct.
This morning Matthews announced she was adding 100 new inspectors – more than double the present complement – at a cost of $12 million.
Every home in the province will be expected to undergo an annual RQI beginning in 2014 – not just when prompted by a high number of complaints and critical incidents.
While we recognize this does little to put staffing bedside in the homes, it may have a cascading effect on improving overall quality in the sector.
That includes pressure on the powerful for-profit nursing home lobby to seek more staffing resources, not just funding for capital upgrades.
The more detailed inspection reports will likely provide expanded evidence for community-based activists seeking the long elusive provincial staffing standard. All such reports are public and posted online.
It will increase the impetus for homes to conduct more training with staff to ensure resident safety and better quality care.
It may also call into question the placement of residents who may be better served in a more specialized facility, such as a psychiatric group home.
One hundred new inspectors will not solve every problem, but it could be the tipping point that finally brings about real change to Ontario’s nursing home sector.
Let’s hope so.
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