Long-term care inspection reports: 'What we know is the tip of the iceberg'

July 7, 2017
Article Source
Ottawa Citizen

Anyone with access to the internet can find the results of provincial inspections of long-term care homes. But these reports are far from transparent, says a lawyer who is an advocate for seniors.

The province's Long-Term Care Homes Quality Inspection Program has more than 150 inspectors who conduct three types of inspections. First, residents and families can make complaints to the province to request an inspection. Second, it's mandatory for homes to report certain types of "critical" incidents, including abuse, which also spark an inspection. The homes are also subject to comprehensive provincial inspections.

But the reports from inspectors available to the public are often not very enlightening, said Jane Meadus, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, a legal aid clinic for seniors.

"It's really difficult to tell what happened. They're so sanitized. I've seen reports that, unless I knew what actually happened, I couldn't tell what happened,” Meadus said.

"It's difficult to know what's happening. What we know is the tip of the iceberg." 

It is also possible that an incident serious enough to warrant criminal charges might never appear in a compliance report about a long-term care facility, for example.

On Monday, the Citizen published a video showing a personal support worker repeatedly punching an 89-year-old man who is a patient at the city-run Garry J. Armstrong long-term care facility. The video was taken by a camera installed in the room by Georges Karam's family. The worker, Jie Xiao, 44, pleaded guilty to assault and is expected to be sentenced later this year.

In an incident like this, the home has a mandatory duty to report the abuse of a patient, said Meadus. If the facility did as it is required and reported the abuse, it would be in compliance with provincial requirements — and the incident would not be mentioned in a non-compliance report. 

Meanwhile, if there is a complaint and the situation is remedied by the time an inspector gets there, the home is considered to be in compliance, she said.

"It's an inspection process, not an investigation process. It's what the inspectors see, and not a matter of trying to find out who's telling the truth," said Meadus. "I tell people to take a picture, because then you have evidence."

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