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NURSING HOMES

7,502 violations; 0 fines to nursing homes inspected in Ontario

By Jonathan Sher, The London Free Press

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas.

More than 600 nursing homes inspected in Ontario. More than 7,500 violations found. Not a single, solitary fine or worker order. Not one.

Ontario’s ruling liberals doubled the number of inspectors and gave them weapons to demand better care but those weapons remained holstered in the face of abuses, numbers obtained by The Free Press show.

“Four years. No fines. Give me a break,” said Jane Meadus of the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.

For three years, the Health Ministry ignored its own law and didn’t do annual top-to-bottom inspections. In 2013, former Health Minister Deb Matthews doubled the number of inspectors and promised all homes would be probed by the end of 2014 and each year afterwards.

That promise was met but in manner Meadus said leaves homes without an incentive to change practices that place residents in harm’s way.

Fewer than one in 10 violations led to even the most basic sort of order — most homes were simply told of the transgression or asked to come up with a written plan to correct it, plans the ministry isn’t required to check.

Even when homes failed to report incidents of abuse, there weren’t any fines. “They’re not fining. They’re not making orders with teeth,” Meadus said.

Among the worst cases occurred in London, where Mount Hope Centre last year didn’t report that it knew an elderly woman had been attacked four times. There wasn’t a fine or order, just a request to come up with a written plan that might not be reviewed by the ministry,

The lack of consequences is concerning, NDP health critic France Gelinas said. It’s not rogue inspectors — the numbers reveal something more systemic. “Something derailed some place,” she said. “It makes me doubt the entire process.”

Asked about concerns, the Health Ministry emailed that the sanctions chosen were based on the severity of violations, how many residents have been affected and each home’s track record. Because these were the first top-to-bottom probes for many homes, there was often no track record.

As to the absence of work and activity orders, the ministry wrote that it wouldn’t take such a measure unless it can prove the home was unable or unwilling to correct violations, something that hasn’t happened.

The Free Press asked Health Minister Eric Hoskins and associate minister Dipika Damerla whether their ministry was strict enough with homes and protective enough of residents, but neither replied.

jonathan.sher@sunmedia.ca

Twitter.com/JSHERatLFPress​

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BY THE NUMBERS:

Nursing homes inspected: 629

Violations found: 7,502

Voluntary plans of correction: 3,480

Compliance orders: 681

Fines or work/activity orders: 0

TIMELINE:

2010: Ontario requires annual inspections and gives inspectors more tools to protect residents from harm.

2013: Most homes haven’t had top-to-bottom probe and ruling Liberals broke own law, Free Press shows.

2013: Then-Health Minister Deb Matthews more than doubles number of inspectors and promises all homes will be probed by end of 2014.

2013/14: All homes inspected.

2015: No fines or work orders after more than 7,500 violations are found.