Stories of understaffed retirement homes with unsanitary and downright unsafe conditions are legion in Ontario. No doubt every senior on the receiving end of appalling and abusive treatment has wondered how this could be allowed to go on and desperately hoped that somebody, anybody, would come to help them.
Queen’s Park was finally moved into action by the pleas of seniors — not to mention horrific stories of abuse on the front pages of this newspaper — and has started regulating Ontario’s privately operated retirement homes. On Friday, the province announced that retirement homes will face a surprise inspection at least once every three years, with high-risk homes being visited more often. This is the latest move to help police this growing industry and ensure good and dignified care for 40,000 retirement home residents.
The combination of the latest draft regulations and those already put in place require suspected elder abuse to be reported immediately and, once reported, investigated right away. It’s all intended to create a policy of “zero tolerance of abuse and neglect.”
Such a policy should have been obvious. It’s scary that regulations need to spell out that abuse of seniors isn’t okay. But the Star’s Dale Brazao, who lived undercover in one of Toronto’s worst retirement homes, proved that such a policy is not only required, it must be vigorously enforced.
That’s why there are lingering concerns about the government’s decision to farm out licensing, inspections and enforcement of safety and care standards to an industry-run body. Seniors Minister Linda Jeffrey will have to be vigilant to ensure that this much-needed oversight system works as well as promised and be prepared to bring it in-house if it does not.
But even if this system works well, seniors don’t just need better-run retirement homes. Many are far too frail and ill to be there. They need the full-time nursing care provided in government-subsidized long-term care homes. Trouble is, there are 20,000 people on waiting lists for a bed in one of these homes.
The government has done good work so far to improve retirement homes. But it must take additional steps to get seniors who need more medical care into a long-term care bed. Regulating a retirement home does not magically turn it into a long-term care home. The province can’t afford to forget that.
SOURCE: The Star
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