Sudbury reaction to news more inspectors being hired to improve care in LTC homes
Ontario is moving ahead with its plan to fix the long-term care sector by hiring almost 200 new inspectors.
Long Term Care Minister Rod Phillips announced the plan Tuesday morning at Queen's Park.
"Last year there were 156 inspections staff in Ontario and after our hiring blitz, there will be 344 on-the-ground inspectors," Phillips said.
"And that hiring is well underway. That is better than one inspector for every two homes in the province. With this investment, we are more than doubling the number of long-term care inspectors in Ontario."
The $20 million plan is part of the commitment to spend more than $72 million in the next three years to increase enforcement capacity and ensure quality of life.
Some of the new inspectors will also have an investigative background and for the first time, have the skills and certification to lay charges if warranted.
Phillips is hoping the program will help increase transparency and accountability in a sector where neglect was made evident due to COVID-19.
It's music to the ears of some families, who said changes in how seniors are treated is needed in this province.
Jovette Beaudry's mother-in-law is 101 years old and at Au Chateau in Sturgeon Falls. Beaudry herself is the chair of the family council.
"It's definitely good news," said Beaudry. "What we want as families is safety for our residents -- that's the most important thing that we want and I think that when the inspectors are called for an incident or critical incident or to investigate something like that, I think it's too late."
Beaudry said more inspectors could hopefully prevent tragic incidents in nursing homes.
"Inspectors that are chosen should be hired very carefully," she said. "Those that are hired should understand the nursing home, they've either worked there, employees, family members, administrators to make sure that the safety of the resident comes first. Staffing is another thing, if we can look at that and try to figure out how to increase it."
Claude Martel, who sits on the family council at Golden Manor in Timmins, agrees. His wife is a resident at the Manor.
"It's a good idea -- as far as I'm concerned I don't think they come in often enough," said Martel. "I guess they got a big area to cover but like anything else, a lot of stuff slips under the carpet, but if they go in more often at least they know there's people there watching over what they're doing."
Martel said the new inspectors are a welcome start, but more needs to be done to address the issues facing long-term care.
He said residents only get about $9 a day for their food allowance. The doting husband and volunteer said the addition of new inspectors should only be looked at as just a start.
"I know they're starting to change, it's going to take a while," Martel said. "They're building a new place but you know it should have been done quite a few years ago."
It's unclear how many of those inspectors will be coming to northern Ontario or will be based in the north.
"While we do not have a specific number, the ministry is committed to allocating resources so that there are enough staff to proactively visit each home every year while continuing reactive inspections to promptly address complaints and critical incidents," the province said in an emailed response to CTV Northern Ontario.
The news release issued Tuesday said the program will take a resident-centred approach by allowing for direct discussions with residents.
"CARP, both nationally and locally, has been very involved in long-term care for many years, a number of deficiencies and we're happy to see some action is actually taking place," said John Lindsay, the interim-chair of Sudbury's branch of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP).
Lindsay said the group's main concern still remains quality of care. They say each resident should be getting at least four hours of personal care at a minimum.
He said they also want to see those inspections take place unannounced, because they would be far more effective in getting results.
While talk of more inspectors and change is a good thing, Sudbury MPP Jamie West said what really matters is if this will translate into better quality of care.
"In 2019, they did six" inspections, said West. "No, sorry, they did nine out of 636 homes that were inspected that year. So you know, I think this is a little bit of the election's coming and let's wave some flags."
West said they haven't been told all of the details but they do know the inspectors won't all be in place until the fall of 2022, which would be after the provincial election.
"What's important to realize is that Doug Ford has been rewarding the privatized long-term care centres that have been doing really poorly for our seniors during COVID-19 and he's just signing over some 30-year renewal agreements for these centres," he added.
The government said it will release its plan to protect Ontario's progress against COVID-19 and for building the foundation of the province's recovery in the 2021 Ontario Economic Outlook on Nov. 4.