LTC concerns continue, despite provincial plans to hold operators accountable
Posted: April 8, 2022
(April 6, 2022)
By: Allan Benner, The Peterborough Examiner
A Niagara-based long-term-care advocacy group remains concerned about plans to award contracts and beds to homes that failed to protect residents during the pandemic, despite recent provincial legislation that will hold long-term-care providers accountable.
The Ministry of Long-Term Care provided a statement in response to concerns from the Ontario Health Coalition, regarding the awarding of 30-year licences and thousands of new and redeveloped beds to private, for-profit companies.
“All long-term-care home operators across the province are treated equally and fairly,” the statement said, adding “approximately half of all beds in the LTC development pipeline are allocated to not-for-profit projects — including municipal homes.”
Still, Network 4 Long Term Care Advocacy Committee chair Carol Dueck said all the new beds and 30-year contracts recently announced for Niagara were awarded to for-profit homes, including some that experienced significant COVID-19 outbreaks.
“It looks like they’re meeting their election promise of 5,000 new beds … and they’re getting closer to protecting and supporting the non-for-profit,” she said.
However, she added, some of the operators who had some of the “most inflamed deaths … are being granted new licences without having shown any pulling up their socks.”
“They should have to prove that before (they are granted licences and new beds),” she said.
The ministry said its Fixing Long-Term Care Act will strengthen measures to hold long-term-care home licensees to account, “and ensure residents are safe and well cared for.”
“It provides for a number of new and improved progressive enforcement tools to encourage compliance and hold homes that do not comply to account,” the ministry said.
That includes an additional $72.3 million in funding over three years to increase enforcement capacity, “including doubling the number of inspectors across the province by 2022-23.”
“This will make Ontario’s inspector to long-term-care homes ratio one of the highest in Canada,” the statement said.
Dueck said the changes “are all piecemeal from this side of the fence, and it’s really hard to put together.”
She said it remains to be seen if the new legislation will “go far enough and how the are inspections going to work, going forward.”
The new legislation does nothing to address issues that arose during the pandemic, Dueck said.
“All of what happened in the past has been wiped out.”
She said efforts more than a year ago to hold long-term care homes accountable during the pandemic were severely curtailed by provincial legislation that made it more difficult to launch civil legal action.
Meanwhile, she said, concerns about inadequate staffing levels are continuing at homes throughout the province.
Dueck said an ad hoc coalition of family councils chairs surveyed families, caregivers and residents of facilities in mid-March about staffing levels.
The group, calling itself the Family Councils Action Coalition, heard back from 474 people from 95 homes in 52 communities, with the vast majority saying homes were understaffed, particularly with personal support workers.
“The survey shows provincewide the perception of families seeing insufficient staffing to meet the needs of residents in many, many homes — profit and non-profit,” Dueck said in an email.