Ontario has too few staff caring for residents in its long-term care homes. Coupled with too few inspectors — most homes have not had a detailed inspection since 2009 — it is a cocktail for disaster. How many scandals will it take before the province keeps its words and really protects some of our most vulnerable citizens?
OPSEU’s Rick Janson speaks about the lack of staffing and inspection at Ontario’s long-term care homes in this new Operation Maple video. Also featured is OPSEU member Tamara Lazic, who speaks about her grandmother’s last days in one of these homes.
In February the British Columbia government received a 216-page report on seniors care. In it are 176 recommendations covering home care, assisted living and residential care. It is the second major report on senior’s care in that province since 2009. Both reports were investigated and prepared by the BC Ombudsperson.
BC walks the talk on integration: the Ombudsperson includes many recommendations to bring consistency to seniors’ care in that province.
It also makes important recommendations around mandatory staffing standards — something Ontario has resisted for years. The BC Ombudsperson pointed out the inconsistency between the province’s handling of vulnerable seniors and vulnerable children, of which there are measurable staff-to-children ratios for child care facilities but not for seniors’ care.
The BC Ombudsperson says the regional health authorities were asked to work towards a staffing level of 3.36 direct care hours per resident per day, but failed to achieve it despite a new residential rate structure that was introduced in 2010.
By comparison, Ontario maintains that its nursing homes have an average of 3.0 hours of care per resident per day, but Ontario counts paid hours, not direct care hours. Nor is any of this made mandatory by legislation.
As the BC Ombudsperson points out, “measuring the hours that staff provide direct care is more precise than measuring the number of staff hours because it accounts for the fact that not all staff provide direct care, and the even those who do also have other duties to perform.”
In Ontario the Ombudsman’s office is shut out from investigating long-term care homes. Andre Marin points out that the Ombudsman has authority over long-term care in most other provinces.
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.