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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She said this before…How many will die in a LTC before it happens?
That’s an interesting point — all policy decisions have a direct effect on lives, not just the number of LTC inspectors. It is our contention that all public policy decisions — not just those made by the MOHLTC — should have to look at the impact on public health. The social determinants of health have been well documented and yet we pursue policies, for example, that widen the inequality gap. We likely wouldn’t be making many of the austerity decisions today if we actually measured the lives that it would cost.
Unless the inspectors do a better job than they are doing now, it will be a waste of money. Inspections now focus on paperwork and do not take enough account of the care of the residents. The procedures are too legalistic and do not provide for the facts that residents’ families and friends may have more of an idea of abuse/lack of care than do the residents themselves, especially if they are frightened, have dementia or have passed the stage of life when they can articulately defend themselves.
Saralee — The new RQI has specific requirements to talk to residents, staff and family. It involves three specialist inspectors — an nurse, an environmental inspector and a dietitian. This is not just a paper exercise. Check out any home that has undergone one, and you’ll find their online report a worthwhile read.