Ontario Liberals switching to ‘lite’ inspections at over 500 long-term care homes across the province

Jul 19, 2016

Queen’s Park is not only refusing to make public which nursing homes it classifies as high-risk, the Health Ministry won’t allow its inspectors to state in public reports if their inspections were full-blown or a watered-down version the government will start using at most facilities starting next week.

That will make it harder for Ontarians to choose which home to send a frail elderly relative, opposition health critics charge.

Bartek Sadowski/BloombergDining will be among the key activities not observed during "lite" inspections at Ontario nursing homes, sources say.

“For them to do it secretly, they either don’t have the money (for full inspections) or they have something to hide,” said Jeff Yurek, the Progressive Conservative health critic and MPP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.

The secrecy isn’t new: Ontario Liberals said nothing of plans to scale back inspections at more than 500 of the province’s 630 nursing homes until questioned by Postmedia.

Rather than do full inspections annually, the ministry has designated 84 per cent of homes as low risk, and they will get a full inspection only once every three years, sources say.

The other two years, those homes will get what inspectors and homes themselves are calling a “lite” inspection with one-quarter the staffing and many key areas, from staffing to security, off the table for formal review.

Postmedia last week asked the ministry to make public which homes were deemed low-, medium- and high-risk so that Ontarians can know before they chose a home for a loved one. Ministry officials initially said the classifications hadn’t been finalized even though sources say the “lite” inspections start next week, then took it further, saying they would never disclose the classifications to the public.

Asked repeatedly whether inspectors would be allowed to mark on public inspection reports if they conducted a full or just a “lite” inspection, a ministry spokesperson issued statements that didn’t address the question, then replied that there would not be that added information.

This is unacceptable. This is worrisome to no end

“The ministry’s inspection reports will continue to provide the same information,” spokesperson David Jensen wrote.

The inspection reports do disclose the number of inspectors and the number of days they spent at a home, but that will be little use to Ontarians who don’t know that full inspections involved three or four inspectors for two weeks while lite inspections only involve two inspectors for one week.

“This is unacceptable. This is worrisome to no end,” said NDP Health Critic France Gelinas. “It will be even tougher to find out where are the problem homes.”

The change by Ontario Liberals is a full retreat from three years ago, Gelinas said, when former health minister Deb Matthews went public with plans to more than double the number of inspectors so that all nursing homes would get a full annual inspection — a reversal that came only after Postmedia showed how the Ontario government had violated its own laws meant to protect residents of nursing homes.

The new inspectors weren’t enough. Though each home received a full inspection last year, that stretched inspectors so thinly, they delayed by months investigations into critical incidents and complaints, a problem highlighted by Ontario Auditor General Bonnie Lysyk.

The changes to inspections were made after lobbying by owners and operators of nursing homes.

Concerns about care in nursing homes in London intensified after two facilities were recently rocked by regulators. Registered practical nurse Susan Muzylowsky admitted mistreating 19 residents at Mount Hope Centre in 2014, while Earls Court Village was ordered to stop taking new residents after inspectors found 37 violations, many endemic since the place opened in 2014.

http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadian-politics/ontario-liberals-switching-to-lite-inspections-at-over-500-long-term-care-homes-across-the-province

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