Ontario Ombudsman’s Long Term Care Homes Verdict: Things May be Improving

January 14th 2011 – CARP closely follows developments in the long-term care (LTC) homes sector because they constitute an important care option in an aging society and also because they house the most vulnerable among us. No one sets out to live in a LTC home but we are glad they are there when we need them or when a loved one needs more care than we might be able to provide at home. The reality is that diminished capacity, be it mental or physical, will invariably be coupled with a certain loss of independence and vulnerability.

Therefore, it is especially important that we pay special attention to the protection and rights of those who rely on and trust in long-term care facilities to care for them and their loved ones.

When it was reported in early of July, 2008 that the MAJORITY of Ontarios nursing homes had failed to meet basic Provincial standards put in place to protect the rights of older residents, Ontarians were shocked. A Canadian Press investigation revealed that a significant number of nursing homes had received numerous citations for violations as serious as failing to bathe those in their care twice a week and improper use of restraints. Other media outlets proceeded to cover the story and the general consensus seemed to be that there was a full-blown LTC crisis in Ontario. LTC home operators countered that there were too many regulations that it was almost impossible NOT to commit some sort of infraction. With regulations that could see a home blasted for failing to label a residents toothbrush, it was no surprise, they said, that the majority of nursing homes had committed infractions.

By late July, over 100 complaints had come streaming into Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marins office and he announced that he would be launching an investigation. Certainly, all of this generated a lot more public interest in the LTC sector. The Ombudsmans Queens Park press conference was packed with the major media and bureau chiefs.

Since the Ombudsman does not have authority over essential public services such as municipalities, universities, school boards, hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities, police, and childrens aid societies, he announced that he would be conducting a systemic investigation into the provinces monitoring of long-term care facilities. The Ombudsman later remarked that following his announcement and the media coverage, his office received 450 more long-term care related complaints.

The million-dollar question is: whats happened since then? The Ombudsman recently announced the findings of the Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT)s investigation into the matter. Although no formal report was published he did issue a summary of findings and recommendations. Its important to note that during the Ombudsmans investigation, the sector underwent significant changes The Ontario Government was aware there were problems to be remedied in the LTC sector prior to the Canadian Press investigation and to this end, they endeavored to consolidate three Acts that used to governed nursing homes and homes for older persons. The new and improved Long Term Care Homes Act received Royal Assent in June 2007, but it could not be proclaimed into force until the necessary regulations were in place.

CARPs position is that while there are some areas that the Act fails to cover, overall, it does an adequate job of addressing the key issues such as elder abuse in institutions. To read more about CARPs position on the Long Term Care Homes Act, 2007, please click here