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Public inquiry launched into safety, security at long-term care homes

By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

The Liberal government has ordered a public inquiry into the province’s long-term care homes, several months after a former registered nurse was found guilty of murdering eight people who were under her care.

The Honorable Justice Eileen Gillese will lead the independent inquiry, set to review the policies, procedures and oversight of Ontario’s 630 long-term care homes.

In June, Elizabeth Wettlaufer was convicted of killing eight former patients at homes located throughout southwestern Ontario. She was also founded guilty on four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault.

According to officials from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Gillese will review the accountability measures in place in long-term care homes to ensure they meet the objectives of the Long-Term Care Act and will also provide recommendations to improve the safety and well-being of residents.

Durham Region owns and operates four long-term homes, Hillsdale Terraces and Hillsdale Estates in Oshawa, Lakeview Manor in Beaverton and Fairview Lodge in Whitby, accommodating approximately 850 residents.

Laura MacDermaid, director of long-term care and services for seniors for the region, says her department is willing and ready to assist in any way required during the public inquiry.

However, in her view, it is much too early to speculate regarding any of findings Gillese may have and how it will affect the long-term care home industry.

“I really think it remains to be seen,” MacDermaid stated, noting she believes the inquiry may delve into some “system issues.”

“There is always room for improvement…we could learn some things [from the inquiry],” MacDermaid says.

Under the Long-Term Care Act, complaints regarding a long-term care home can be taken to the region or the ministry directly.

If a complaint is taken to the region, it can be dealt with through a number of avenues, with the Ministry receiving notification of how it was handled.

When taken to the Ministry directly, a complaint will be dealt with by provincial investigators.

MacDermaid notes that long-term care industry is heavily regulated under the act, and each home is subject to an annual compliance inspection.

“Four or five inspectors will come into the facility and they review everything.”

The homes are also all accredited under the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) Canada.

Gillese’s appointment was made official on Aug. 1 and her final report, including all recommendations, is scheduled to be finalized by July 31, 2019 and will be made public.