Nursing homes and long-term care facilities are intended to provide a safe and compassionate environment for your loved ones to live out the latter stages of their life. Unfortunately, improper care of elderly and/or incapacitated residents is a commonly occurring issue in many facilities across Canada. This problem has been exacerbated by the spread of COVID-19, with residents of nursing homes one of the worst-hit groups of the population.

A new bill has been passed in Ontario to attempt to improve the well-being of residents in long-term care and retirement homes. It is part of the Government’s plan to fix long-term care and to ensure seniors get the quality of care they need and deserve.

What is the new nursing home legislation?

On December 9, 2021, the Providing More Care, Protecting Seniors, and Building More Beds Act 2021 received royal assent and became law in Ontario. 

It will repeal the Long-Term Care Homes Act 2007 and replace it with the Fixing Long-Term Care Act 2021. This Act sets out the framework for the regulation of long-term care homes in Ontario. Long-term care homes are licensed under the Act and provide more care than retirement homes, including help for residents with most or all daily activities and access to 24-hour nursing and personal care.

The new Act also makes several amendments to the Retirement Homes Act 2010. Retirement homes offer a lower level of care than long-term care homes, with most offering private rooms or apartments along with housekeeping and meals.

The Government has indicated that, in the coming months, it will propose and publicly consult on regulations to support the new Fixing Long-Term Care Act 2021 and the Retirement Homes Act 2010.

What is the aim of the legislation? 

The amendments aim to support the Government’s plan to ensure Ontario’s seniors get the quality of care they need and deserve. The Government’s plan involves:

  • improving staffing and care;
  • protecting residents through better accountability, enforcement and transparency; and 
  • building modern, safe and comfortable homes.

Rod Phillips, the Minister of Long-Term Care, has said:

Our government has a plan to fix long-term care and this new legislation is a key part of our plan. This legislation will help us ensure that residents receive better quality of care and enjoy a better quality of life. 

What are some of the key changes to nursing home resident care?

Direct care target hours

In order to improve care, the Fixing Long-Term Care Act 2021 establishes a target for the average number of hours of direct care to be provided to residents. This is four hours per resident per day, to be achieved by March 31, 2025. There is also a target of 36 minutes of care to be provided by allied health care professionals per resident per day, to be achieved by March 31, 2023. There are interim, annual targets as well. 

Updated Bill of Rights for residents

The Act aims to strengthen measures to hold long-term care home licensees to account. It contains a Bill of Rights for residents, that licensees must fully respect and promote. The rights have been updated, for example through the addition of a right to ongoing and safe support from caregivers. The Act also introduces new obligations relating to quality. For example, long-term care homes need to implement a continuous quality improvement initiative and conduct surveys of residents and families/caregivers every year.

Changes to enforcement

The Act also makes numerous changes to the enforcement regime. These include giving inspectors the authority to issue administrative monetary penalties if the licensee fails to comply with a requirement under the Act. The Director is also able to issue an order suspending or revoking a licence. The Director also has the authority to order the home to be occupied and operated by a long-term care home supervisor if it is not safe to close the home right away and if the licensee is unable or unwilling to operate the home appropriately. The Act also doubles the fines on conviction of an offence.

Policies to address the demand for long-term care beds

As of June 2021, there were more than 38,000 people waiting to access a long-term care bed in Ontario. To address the significant demand for long-term care beds, the Act allows the Minister to make a policy regarding whether long-term care should be offered in an area and the number of beds available in that area. Such a policy could be used instead of requiring a Minister’s determination for each individual licensing request. 

What are some of the changes to the Retirement Homes Act?

The Retirement Homes Act 2010 has also been amended to help ensure residents in retirement homes receive improved care and protection. 

The powers of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority have been strengthened. For example, the Registrar is given the power to serve an order on a licensee of a retirement home in prescribed extraordinary circumstances, if the Registrar believes on reasonable grounds that the extraordinary circumstances have resulted or may result in harm or a risk of harm to one or more residents.

The amendments also provide for enhanced consumer protection measures. For example, there is an obligation on licensees to ensure that an itemized list of the different types of accommodation and care services is provided, and their prices, are made available to any person on request.

Contact the skilled personal injury lawyers at Tierney Stauffer LLP for assistance with nursing home negligence claims

If you suspect that a loved one may have fallen victim to harm or neglect, or for those whose loved ones have been harmed significantly or died as the result of negligence while in the care of a nursing home or care facility, contact one of the experienced personal injury lawyers at Tierney Stauffer LLP in Ottawa, Kingston, Cornwall and North Bay. Our team understands the impact elder abuse can have on families. We offer personalized care to help recover some of what has been lost and to hold those responsible financially accountable. Contact us online or at 1-888-799-8057 to book a consultation. 

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