Care in long-term care facilities throughout Ontario remains a serious issue and concern.
While the Ontario government is making announcements about inquiries, it is important to remember that Ontario law already has in place a duty for everyone to immediately report to the government any suspected abuse, mistreatment or other misconduct in any long-term care facility.
Specifically, Ontario's Long Term Care Act, 2007, at sub-section 24(1), imposes a positive duty on everyone to report any suspected abuse, misconduct or misappropriation in a long-term care facility.
This section reads:
"Reporting certain matters to Director
24 (1) A person who has reasonable grounds to suspect that any of the following has occurred or may occur shall immediately report the suspicion and the information upon which it is based to the Director:
1. Improper or incompetent treatment or care of a resident that resulted in harm or a risk of harm to the resident.
2. Abuse of a resident by anyone or neglect of a resident by the licensee or staff that resulted in harm or a risk of harm to the resident.
3. Unlawful conduct that resulted in harm or a risk of harm to a resident.
4. Misuse or misappropriation of a resident’s money.
5. Misuse or misappropriation of funding provided to a licensee under this Act, the Local Health System Integration Act, 2006 or the Connecting Care Act, 2019. 2007, c. 8, ss. 24 (1), 195 (2); 2019, c. 5, Sched. 3, s. 12 (3).
Although everyone, by statute, has a positive duty to report any of these suspected wrongdoings, it is only a offence to fail to do so for certain people; namely, the facility itself, any person who works at or is responsible for operating the facility or anyone who provide services at the facility.
Notably, the facility itself, under the same legislation, has a legal duty to ensure that any alleged, suspected or witnessed incident of abuse of a resident by anyone, neglect of a resident by the facility or staff is investigated properly and that “appropriate action” is taken in response.
The investigative results generated by the facility and its responsive action must also be reported to the Ontario government.
Every facility must, by law, also have in a place a process and procedures for receiving, investigating and responding to complaints, including by residents.