TORONTO – Heavy new fines for Ontario’s long-term care providers will not be applied retroactively for violations earlier in the pandemic when new Progressive Conservative legislation takes effect, despite fears that the worst offenders were not held responsible.
The Ministry of Long-Term Care said it has not imposed a single fine on operators who broke the rules during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has so far killed more than 4,000 people in healthcare. long-lasting and infected more than 15,000 resident nursing homes.
The bulk of those deaths – which account for 40% of all deaths from the virus in the province – occurred during the first two waves of the pandemic, before most residents of long-term care facilities could be vaccinated. Inspection reports and eyewitness accounts from homes affected by virus outbreaks have described horrific conditions and failure to comply with measures to control the spread of COVID-19.
A spokeswoman for Long-Term Care Minister Rod Phillips singled out the former Liberal government for why no fines were imposed. She said the ability to impose administrative monetary penalties and re-inspection fees was built into a law that was not enacted by the Liberals before the Progressive Conservatives came to power in 2018.
“The Liberals passed the fines into their legislation but never proclaimed them – which in effect meant they were not a tool the ministry could use,” Vanessa De Matteis said in an email.
Phillips introduced a new bill this week to guide regulation of the industry. It includes higher fines of up to $ 1 million for corporations and up to $ 400,000 for board members and individuals.
Once the bill is adopted and entered into force, De Matteis said the ministry will be able to apply fines to the sector, but “they cannot be applied retroactively”.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca said Prime Minister Doug Ford’s government could have passed Liberal law anytime over the past three years to start imposing fines.
He also noted the government’s decision to curtail proactive home inspections in 2018 and legislation introduced last year that raised the legal standard of “gross negligence”, which has raised concerns that it will be more difficult to remove. ” suing long-term care operators.
âIt all happened under Doug’s watch,â Del Duca said in an interview. âThere is no one else to blame in the province of Ontario for these items.
Inspection reports from homes affected by COVID-19 outbreaks have criticized operators for not following infection control measures such as separating infected residents from those who are not.
The final report of a commission examining the pandemic’s impact on long-term care revealed an ill-trained infection control workforce, and members of the Canadian Armed Forces have called to help find lack of cleanliness, disorganization and residents left without food or water in some houses.
Some families have filed lawsuits alleging that the operators failed to protect their loved ones.
Del Duca said he would support retroactive fines for long-term care violations. Opposition New Democrats have also shown support for the idea.
Deputy NDP leader Sara Singh said it was concerning the inspections were not followed up. She said reports documenting neglect during the pandemic should be reviewed, especially as the government is considering renewing operator contracts as part of its plans to create more beds.
“Homes must be held accountable,” she said. âIt will be very important to look at this retroactively as we move forward and think about how we are actually going to ensure accountability and transparency for seniors and families in long-term care. “
Families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic say they are also awaiting accounts.
Cathy Parkes lost her father to COVID-19 in the spring of 2020. Paul Parkes resided at Orchard Villa in Pickering, Ontario. – one of the homes where the military was called in to help as an early virus outbreak spiraled out of control.
The military report on that deployment described misuse of personal protective equipment and neglect of residents left in soiled diapers and without adequate nutrition and hydration.
Cathy Parkes said it was hurtful to see the government considering renewing contracts for companies running houses like the one where her father lived and died before those operators saw the consequences.
“We don’t even have any responsibility yet for what happened in the last 18 months,” she said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 29, 2021.
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