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Consumer group takes issue with ‘new’ LTC rules

Posted: November 3, 2021

(November 2, 2021)

By: Sara McCleary, Sault This Week

Rod Phillips, minister of long-term care, promises more inspections and continued vaccinations at the province's care homes.

Rod Phillips, minister of long-term care, promises more inspections and continued vaccinations at the province’s care homes.

The Ontario government has announced new legislation for the long-term care sector, but critics say the legislation does not make any real changes to the existing Long-Term Care Homes Act.

Rod Phillips, Minister for Long Term Care, announced on Oct. 28 the legislation will double the maximum fines for offences by individuals and corporations, and prohibit anyone convicted of an offence under the act from working for a long-term care home in any way.

Long-term care homes will be required to submit quarterly reports on quality standards, and to appoint an Infection Prevention and Control lead.

While some have welcomed the legislation, including the Ontario Long-Term Care Association – an industry group – others feel it should not be labelled as “new” legislation.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition – an association of grassroots community groups – said it is not really new legislation at all, but rather a few amendments to the existing act.

“We already have strong provisions in the existing Long-Term Care Homes Act,” Mehra told Sault This Week. “They just have never been enforced. So this week’s introduction of a new act is really political theatre to make it look like they are doing something when really, most of it is fluff, and the potentially positive provisions are ‘targets’ for improved care pushed off four years from now after the next election when it will be almost impossible to hold them accountable.”

Phillips announced the Providing More Care, Protecting Seniors, and Building More Beds Act would expand the powers of the ministry, including allowing them to place a supervisor at a long-term care home, but Mehra said the current legislation already allows for this.

“The Ford government already had the power to take over the management of long-term care homes,” she said. “They have had it all along. They also already had the power to suspend licenses, levy fines, revoke licenses. They chose not to.”

Phillips also announced the new legislation will give inspectors the power to issue on-the-spot compliance orders. Mehra does not feel this will go far enough.

“The Ford government cancelled the in-depth annual surprise inspections of all long-term care homes and has never reinstated them,” she said. “This is vital. They have not fined one single home – not even the ones where hundreds of residents died of COVID or of dehydration and starvation. Not one has lost their license.”

She added, the government has taken this even further, passing legislation that shields the corporations that own and operate the for-profit homes from liability for those deaths.

The government’s actions relating to for-profit long-term care homes are concerning, she said.

“The fact that the Ford government has changed the provision that requires the Ontario government to promote public and non-profit homes and has now changed it to allow the government to promote for-profit long-term care homes is a major problem and we will fight that with everything we can muster,” she said.

Phillips said the Province is set to hire 193 new inspectors with an investment this year of $20 million, and is launching a new annual inspections program that will focus on residents’ rights, plans of care, infection prevention and control, abuse and neglect, medication management, nutrition and hydration, policies and directives, and dining observations.

Mehra and the OHC feel this is not enough, as they want to see surprise inspections reinstated.

She pointed out the long-term care industry has long lobbied for the elimination of surprise inspections of homes, but they are a critical tool in ensuring health and safety standards.

“Whatever they are terming ‘proactive’ inspections, they have not consulted with us and other key advocacy groups about and we have not seen them,” she said.

They also want to see a stronger commitment to legislate the requirement that long-term care residents receive four hours of daily care. The new legislation does not set that standard yet, but rather aims for the goal of establishing an average of four hours of care by 2025.

Mehra pointed out three issues with the promise: first, that it calls for an average of four hours of care, not requiring that as a minimum standard; second that it is simply a target and not required; and third that the goal is set for three years after the next provincial election.

Mehra wants to see the province taking steps to act on the issues in long-term care.

“Legislation that isn’t enforced is just window dressing,” she said. “We are demanding real action, real accountability, real improvements to care, not more broken promises and political theatre.”

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