LONDON, Ont. -- Ontario was supposed to have a potent weapon at the ready to back up its demand for better care for the 78,100 residents in the province's nursing homes.
But five years after the ruling Liberals empowered the Ministry of Health to keep contractors on standby to quickly fix problems left to fester by homes, the government still doesn't have the weapon in place, QMI Agency has learned.
"There is no list of approved vendors. The ministry has not yet issued a Work and Activity Order," ministry spokesperson David Jenson wrote.
That admission stunned and angered opposition MPPs.
"I'm speechless," said NDP seniors critic Teresa Armstrong. "They are not taking this seriously. Every day we wait, someone's life is at risk."
In 2010, the Ontario government passed a law to give inspectors bigger sticks to demand compliance from nursing homes, including the issuing of work orders: The ministry was supposed to select pre-approved contractors who could be called upon to do critical work that homes had failed to do. A year earlier, then-health minister David Caplan said the new law would make the owners of nursing homes more accountable.
But broken promises do nothing to protect residents from harm, said Bill Walker, the Conservative party's critic for long-term care. "It's deplorable. You can't have the rule of law and pick and choose when to use it," he said.
Not only work and activity orders have been absent. The ministry has the power to impose fines on nursing home owners but has not levied one.
"Don't say something if you're not going to do it," Walker said.
Since the summer of 2013, Ministry of Health inspectors have completed top-to-bottom probes of each of the province's 629 nursing homes, finding 7,502 violations. But fewer than one in 10 violations led to a compliance order and no owners of homes were fined.