New legislation to fix our long-term care homes

By Toby Barrett MPP

After decades of neglect, our government continues to take the action necessary to fix long-term care. For decades, not enough beds or staff were available, and not enough attention was being paid to the concerns of the people who live and work in long-term care homes. 

On October 28th, as part of our plan to fix the sector, we introduced the Providing More Care, Protecting Seniors, and Building More Beds Act, 2021. If passed, this legislation will improve the well-being of residents in long-term care and retirement homes and support our commitments to increase staffing for more hours of direct care, enhance accountability and build beds that are more modern.

The plan is built on three pillars: staffing and care; accountability, enforcement and transparency; and building modern, safe comfortable homes for our seniors.

Seniors entering long-term care today are older and have more complex medical needs than they did just a decade ago. The level of care residents require increased dramatically, but the amount of care they receive did not. In the nine years between 2009 and 2018, the amount of care that each resident received increased by only 22 minutes. Residents need more care. 

This legislation will make Ontario the leader in quality long-term care in Canada by making us the first jurisdiction committing to four hours of care and doing it through legislation. It would also establish our government’s commitment to increase the direct care provided by other health care professionals such as social workers, dieticians and occupational therapists, in addition to nurses and personal support workers.

Increasing staff to support an increase in care has been championed by residents and families for decades. More staff equals more quality care. 

The second pillar of our plan to fix long-term care is protecting residents through better accountability, enforcement and transparency. We will update the Residents’ Bill of Rights, including the addition of a right to be supported by a caregiver and the right to be provided with care and services based on a palliative care philosophy.

Central to the legislation are measures that would strengthen enforcement. People need to trust that our most vulnerable will be safe and enjoy a quality of life they deserve, and that is why this legislation includes increasing fines. It would double the fines on conviction of an offence for individuals to $200,000 for a first offences and $400,000 for a second offence. For corporations, there would be an 150 per cent increase to $500,000 for a first offence and $1 million for second offences. 

The act would give the ministry director or the Minister of Long-Term Care the authority to suspend a licence and take over a long-term care home without having to first revoke the licence and close the facility. 

The third and final pillar is building modern, safe and comfortable homes for our seniors. Part of the changes include allowing licensees to focus their resources on redeveloping homes and on resident care, and streamlining the process for a changes to existing licences such as a small increase in the number of beds.

This legislation would complement our unprecedented $2.68-billion commitment to build 30,000 net new beds this decade. There are already over 20,000 new and 15,000 upgraded beds in the pipeline including significant new build in Haldimand-Norfolk.

Toby Barrett is MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk