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Oh, give me a home: Province changes definition of retirement residences

July 23rd, 2010 · 1 Comment

By Perry King

Bill 21 is now officially law, but local retirement homes are still unsure how the new regulations will affect them.

“We do not know at this point how much change there will be in terms of regulations,” said Anne Walton, vice president of operations for Diversicare, the overseeing body for Hazelton Place Retirement Home (111 Avenue Rd.).

“Certainly the legislation is consumer protection legislation and we support that.”

Bill 21, or the Retirement Homes Act, is broad legislation that will create a regulatory authority that will license retirement homes and conduct inspections. The act will also establish blanket care and safety standards, and establish residents’ rights, promoting zero tolerance for abuse or neglect.

In addition to curbing incidents of abuse and providing consistent standards of care, the legislation aims to prepare for the upcoming increased retirement population, who may outnumber children by 2015 according to a Stats Canada report in May.

“I think everyone has heard situations where residents may feel they weren’t getting what they were supposed to be getting or being addressed, where the retirement wasn’t doing what it promised,” said MPP Gerry Philips (Scarborough-Agincourt) and Minister Responsible for Seniors.

There are roughly 40,000 Ontarians that live in 700 retirement homes across the province. In our neighbourhoods, there are eight retirement homes that vary between short and long-term care, caring for hundreds of residents.

Similarly, Bill Boggs, the administrator for Eden Manor (251 St. George St.), said it is still early in the transition, and that the residence is also trying to figure out what changes would come out of the new rules.

Philips said that those rules will made clear soon. Annex-area retirement homes will be affected very little by the legislation he said. Implementation—including forming the regulatory authority and setting care and safety standards—will take about a year to put into place.

The Liberal government has been working to make this bill law for four years, and the feeling of finally having the bill passed has been that of relief. “It’s a sense of accomplishment that it’s the first time ever that retirement homes will be registered in the province, licensed, inspected, required to meet standards, and required to provide the residents with strong rights,” said Philips.

Rosario Marchese (MPP, Trinity-Spadina) thought the legislation should go further. “If retirement homes were simply residential facilities, this piece of legislation would be okay. But, the reality is that increasingly what we’re noticing is Ontarians are living in these facilities when they have serious healthcare issues,” said Marchese. “Because of that, we need to have better regulations that we believe are not going to be in place to take care of these people as we do in long term care facilities.”

According to the new law, a retirement home is where a minimum of six or more unrelated persons aged 65 or older purchase accommodation and care. Marchese is concerned that the private operators will move to the public sector, where there will be “less stringent” rules on how to operate.

Coupled with an “industry-dominated board,” the situation could lead to two-tier healthcare, he said. “There’s a potential for the healthcare of these individuals that live in these facilities to be undermined. We’re worried that we see no mechanisms for ensuring adequate transparency or accountability.”

Marchese added that he will propose the expansion of oversight duties for the current ombudsman, Andre Marin, to ensure the regulatory board will have proper impartial oversight.

Philips understands the concerns, but says he has ensured that those concerns have been answered. “We, the government, appoint the chair, the four of the nine members. The other five members have to be selected using the criteria that we will have to approve. This is a regulatory authority that has to look after the interests of the residents, that has to fulfill the legislative mandate.”

For Philips, debates naturally follow from these kinds of situations. “Whenever you introduce legislation to regulate an area that hasn’t been regulated, ever, there are always divergent views on exactly how to do it because you’re heading into new territory.”

Tags: News · General

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 copy editor // Oct 7, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    Are there copy editors there? This article is riddled with mistakes. Scarborough is even spelled wrong in graph six.