March 31, 2010

CANADA: Ontario to regulate retirement homes for first time

. SCARBOROUGH, Ontario / CTV Television / Health / / March 31, 2010 Ontario to regulate retirement homes for first time; residents to get rights By Keith Leslie And Romina Maurino, The Canadian Press Retirement homes in Ontario would face licensing and regulation for the first time under proposed legislation, the government said Tuesday. Regulations would enforce care and safety standards, mandate emergency plans and inflection-control programs as well as police background checks for staff. Residents of retirement homes would also get a new set of rights, including the right to know the true cost of care and the right to live in an environment with zero tolerance for abuse or neglect. "Many retirement homes do their very best to give their residents the comfort of knowing that they're living in a safe environment; other retirement-home residents are not so lucky," Gerry Phillips, the minister responsible for seniors, said in introducing the bill Tuesday. "Imagine not having the information you need to make decisions about your own care, imagine not having any recourse for making your home better and no one to talk to when your rights are not respected." The bill defines a retirement home as one where at least six unrelated residents, primarily aged 65 and over, purchase accommodation and care. Unlike Ontario nursing homes, which receive government funding to provide medical care to elderly patients, retirement homes are privately operated and are not regulated. Progressive Conservative critic Gerry Martiniuk said the bill didn't go far enough to meet the needs of seniors who really need more long-term care beds. "My fear is that by regulating retirement homes, seniors will be moved from hospitals to these homes, where the level of care they require may not be available," Martiniuk said. "Regulating retirement homes may be a good idea, but it totally ignores the real problem, and it's the cheap way of getting patients out of hospitals." The lack of nursing home beds in Ontario was thrown into sharp relief recently when Ottawa's chief coroner reported that the lower level of care offered at a retirement home contributed to the death of a 92-year-old woman. The woman had moved out of hospital and into a retirement home while waiting for a bed to open at a nursing home. NDP critic Paul Miller said he was happy to see some administrative changes and higher scrutiny in the bill, but said the key issue of mandatory sprinkler systems shouldn't have been ignored. "This government needs to finally step up to the plate for seniors and ensure that funding for retirement homes in Ontario be fully equipped with operational sprinkler system," Miller said. There are an estimated 43,000 seniors living in about 700 retirement homes across Ontario. Phillips said recently that Ontario's rapidly aging population had spurred the government to regulate retirement homes. Recent estimates project the seniors population in Ontario will double in the next 16 years. [rc] © 2010 CTV Globe Media