Golden Plough Expresses Concerns About New Inspection Team

In City Hall

Today’s Northumberland file photo

By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Northumberland County Council’s Community Health Committee learned at its March meeting that the province has announced a new 10-person long-term-care investigations unit separate and apart from the inspection branch.

How this might affect the Golden Plough Lodge, as Administrator Alanna Clark told the councillors, is still unclear.

Its purpose is to investigate allegations under the Provincial Offences under the 2021 Fixing Long-Term Care Act. Clark said this might involve such allegations as failing to protect a resident from abuse or neglect, failing to comply with ministry inspector’s orders or repeated and ongoing non-compliance.

This new unit is supported with $72.3-million in funding, she continued, and its members have had 19 weeks of training in such aspects as relevant legislation and regulations, as well as investigative techniques (like interviewing and preparing search warrants).

These members are designated as Provincial Offences Officers under the Provincial Offences Act. While investigators identify and address noncompliance, this new body determines if there are grounds to believe an offence has occurred under the act that could result in fines or other punishment.

One concern that has arisen is the fact that the 24/7 nature of these homes means staffing can be an issue, with temporary staff “who cannot provide the quality care needed, nor can they possibly now all the rules under the FLTCA,” Clark’s report said.

The end result, she noted, could be even more staff departures which can only exacerbate this situation.

Committee chair Olena Hankivsky asked if there were any upsides to the development, and Clark expressed her hope that the increased accountability could result in fewer incidents.

“However, the vagueness with which they are going to decide how to and when to investigate does leave people in the industry feeling a bit anxious about it and wondering, sort of, when they are next,” she added.

As her report stated, “It is unclear how the new unit will decide what situations to pursue, though a likely trigger could be multiple, frequent reports of critical incidents specifically around abuse and neglect of a resident of an egregious nature.”

Though her report also pledged to comply with all requests for information and co-operation in the event of an investigation, Clark had hoped for more specifics.

“I know I reached out to Advantage Ontario, a nonprofit organization that supports long-term care. They had no further information about it, and they typically do have a pulse on what’s happening,” she said.

Hankivsky said the important thing is the potential for better outcomes for the residents.

Councillor Lucas Cleveland related the situation to his time in the food-and-beverage industry when, he said, one had to be ready to be inspected at virtually any time.

In the end, Cleveland’s motion to accept the report included a recommendation that (at their March meeting) county council direct staff to send a letter to the ministry regarding the need for further clarity and information regarding the launch of this initiative.

Cecilia Nasmith
Author: Cecilia Nasmith

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