A 10-person team of long-term care investigators in Ontario will now look into allegations of homes failing to protect their residents from abuse or neglect.
Long-Term Care Minister Stan Cho made the announcement Monday, saying the new unit is supported with $72.3 million in funding.
He says Ontario already has “the toughest inspection and enforcement program in Canada,” and the new investigations team will help ensure residents have the best quality of care.
The investigators will be able to look into allegations of failing to protect a resident from abuse or neglect, repeated and ongoing non-compliance, failing to comply with ministry inspector’s orders, suppressing and/or falsifying mandatory reports and negligence of corporate directors.
Investigators will determine if a provincial offence has been committed under the Fixing Long-Term Care Act, which could result in fines and/or imprisonment.
Wayne Gates, the NDP’s long-term care critic, says bolder moves are needed such as better pay and working conditions for staff, since thousands of seniors lost their lives since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the inspection system collapsed during the first wave.
Last fall, CBC Toronto reported the provincial government was falling short of its promises to conduct annual inspections of every long-term care home in Ontario and to boost the ratio of inspectors to homes.
The government announced a plan in October 2021 to double the number of long-term care inspectors, so that the province would have one inspector for every two nursing homes in the province.
There were 624 long-term care facilities in Ontario as of September. However, figures provided to CBC News by the Ministry of Long-Term Care showed that only 234 inspectors are currently working in the field.
That was well short of the 312 that would be needed to meet the promised ratio.
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