Few nursing homes getting tough inspections

Moira Welsh, Staff Reporter, The Toronto Star

No Going Home

For nearly ten years, the Star’s Moira Welsh has investigated stories of abuse and neglect in Ontario nursing homes. Read the story of a quest for better care of our elders at

Fewer than 50 Ontario nursing homes a year have faced the tough new inspections that were supposed to stop abuse and neglect. Instead, residents in the province’s 630 long-term-care homes remain vulnerable. The inspections were touted as the best way to root out bad care in nursing homes. Advocates say they were supposed to have been done annually, but now homes will face them once every five years. Of the 5,500 ministry inspections done between July 1, 2010, and Nov. 10, 2012, only 95 were the in-depth kind. That’s fewer than 50 investigations each year. “It’s appalling,” said Jane Meadus, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly. “We are worse off now than we were before because now we no longer have annual inspections.” Called Resident Quality Inspections, the plan was to send a team of inspectors into each nursing home and interview at least 40 residents, privately, so they could speak openly about the care without fear of repercussions from the staff. Based on those interviews, and family concerns, the investigations would go deep into the home’s practices. But Meadus says the ministry stopped using the term “annual” for these inspections after the Ontario Long Term Care Act became law on July 1, 2010. The ministry was soon hit with thousands of individual complaints, related to every aspect of nursing home life. Now, a ministry visit for any type of complaint is considered an “annual” inspection. In other words, if a ministry inspector walks through the doors of a nursing home once a year, that is good enough, even if the complaint is about soggy green beans at lunch or a broken television in the lounge. No one is looking at resident care plans to see if the medical treatment is sound, if residents are being toileted properly, or hydrated enough to stave off bedsores.