Long-term care homes are safe; statements that suggest otherwise are unfortunate and misleading

There has been a lot of public debate recently regarding the safety of long-term care in Ontario. Let me be abundantly clear, Ontario’s long-term care homes are the safest in the country, our staff deliver exceptional care and statements that suggest otherwise are unacceptably misleading. 

The sector is largely compliant with provincial legislation, recognized as the toughest in North America, with over 500 separate regulations that speak to quality care and safety. Each year, every home is inspected and findings are publicly posted. For any home that is non-compliant, the government follows-up with an even more rigorous inspection process. 

Our staff follow very strict guidelines in the administration of their duties. Everyone from the front line, to volunteers, as well as external agencies must undergo background criminal checks and vulnerable sector screening before being considered for employment. Medications can only be administered by registered staff and double signatures are required for every step of giving a narcotic – administering it, wasting it and discontinuing it. Should an incident of alleged abuse ever take place, the long-term care homes are mandated to follow the Critical Incident policy process which includes notifying the police.

Failure to comply with any requirements under the Long-Term Care Homes Act legislation can result in stiff penalties, including licences being revoked and long-term care homes take these requirements very seriously. 

When issues arise, and from time to time they will, we should ensure that we do not rush to judgement and propagate a characterization that is untrue, that we do not fuel inaccuracies without all of the facts. We should ensure that we recognize how important long-term care is for our loved ones, for the men and women who need it and recognize the immense work our staff and volunteers do every day to ensure quality of life needs are being met.

Today, 90% of seniors entering long-term care have some form dementia along with a variety of other medical needs. The level of emotion one goes through in determining they need long-term care can do without the added fear-mongering and insinuations that homes are unsafe.

It is unfortunate that we never cover the good news. In fact, the sector has seen a tremendous evolution in quality in the last five years and just last week Health Quality Ontario, the province’s provincial advisor for the health system performance, highlighted that we are now leading the charge in quality. Sadly, not one story was printed or aired.

If anything, today we should be asking that more be done to promote the positive, that we do more to highlight the exceptional staff who take care of our loved ones and that we work to ensure that more specialized resources are afforded to support the many more seniors entering long-term care with dementia and other illnesses.

- Candace Chartier

Candace is a Registered Nurse, a former long-term care home operator and currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Ontario Long Term Care Association.