Ontario follows OPSEU/SEFPO’s advice by returning to proactive long-term care inspections

Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says an overhaul of inspections for long-term care is great news and shows that the government is hearing the concerns of front-line workers and tapping into their expertise.

Thomas says today’s announcement to double the number of long-term care home inspectors and implement a new inspections program is exactly what OPSEU/SEFPO has been calling for and it shows that the government is listening closely.

“We’re pleased to see proactive inspections back on the province’s priority list,” said Thomas. “Comprehensive and unannounced annual inspections are the only way to ensure these homes are operating to the highest standards of resident care. It’s what our union has demanded for years, and I’m pleased to see this government is listening and responding to the good work our union has done.”

Thomas says it’s a step that will go a long way toward improving accountability in this long-beleaguered part of Ontario’s health care sector.

Despite ongoing demands by the union and advocates, the number of proactive inspections – or what’s commonly referred to as Resident Quality Inspections (RQIs) – plummeted significantly in recent years, and just prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most recently, OPSEU/SEFPO submitted a report to Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission, whose final recommendations closely reflected those of the union, including a return to annual RQI inspections, and the hiring of a new cadre of inspectors to carry them out.

But OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida says system-wide change is still needed; to establish a fully public long-term care model and remove the profit incentive entirely.

“The COVID-19 crisis has proven that a fully public, non-profit long-term care system would improve the living and working conditions for residents and staff alike,” said Almeida. “But we’re still seeing public money being siphoned off to these private operators, including corporations that are building new homes. It’s time for Ontario to learn its lesson and take the profits out of care.”

Neil Martin, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s OPS Central Employee Relations Committee (CERC) says it’s also time to give inspectors more capacity to flex their enforcement muscles; to address issues like staffing levels in homes and penalize providers who break the rules.

“We must not be afraid to hold these for-profits accountable and to deal harshly with repeat offenders, up to and including the revocation of their operating licenses,” said Martin. “Our regulatory enforcement members play an integral role in keeping Ontarians safe, but their findings must be taken seriously, and not modified by middle management – people’s lives depend on it.”

“We’ve still got a long road ahead of us,” said Thomas. “But this government’s commitment to increase the number of inspectors shows that they understand that a proactive, comprehensive and annual inspection program is an important part of keeping Ontarians safe, especially our vulnerable population living in long-term care.

“We’ll keep pushing for better,” said Thomas. “But this is a major win and I have no doubt that it’s the result, in part, of the immense work done by our union and its dedicated members.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931