Dean Emerita leads charge to protect long-term care residents

30 March 2012

Gail Donner

In response to Toronto Star reports of incidents of abuse and neglect in long-term care homes and underreporting of these incidents, a task force was created by the long-term care sector. Led by Dr. Gail Donner, Bloomberg Nursing professor and dean emerita, it will examine and address these issues with the objective of developing an action plan to protect residents.

The Long-Term Care Task Force on Resident Care and Safety will consult with long-term care residents, families, friends, volunteers and staff, as well as researchers, academics and other subject matter experts to gather information to understand the factors in long-term care that contribute to safe, high quality resident care and promote an environment of openness and respect.

“Abuse and neglect are serious issues,” says Donner. “We want to hear from people so the task force can develop an action plan that truly helps prevent incidents of abuse or neglect in long-term care homes and advances a culture of openness and transparency to the benefit of all involved in the provision and receipt of long-term care services.”

The task force is independent of government and has broad representation from across the sector, including family and resident councils, nurses, physicians, personal support workers, unions, long-term care provider associations and advocates. Members of the public were also invited to submit their views on the issue. The task force has a defined mandate, and as a result, sought responses to a key set of questions that ensured submissions, while not limited, were appropriately focused.

“We strongly encouraged people interested in contributing their views on these issues to participate,” says Donner. “The wide ranging input we have received will support our efforts to develop an action plan that is truly responsive to the needs of residents and care providers.”

The response rate was overwhelming. It is clear to the task force that this is a subject people care about. And while the nature of the questions and topic dictated not all the responses would be upbeat, it was positive to see people responding with a genuine interest in helping the task force accomplish their mandate.

The goal of the task force is to deliver an action plan that will support the prevention of incidents of abuse or neglect in long-term care homes; advance the current zero tolerance of abuse policy and overall culture of openness and transparency; and restore public confidence that long-term care residents are receiving high quality care and are treated with dignity and respect. The action plan will be shared with the public after its completion at the end of April 2012.

This is the first time such a focused approach has been taken to tackle allegations of abuse and neglect in long-term care homes. There has always been concern within the community and legislation has been passed to address these issues, but there’s never been an all-encompassing assessment, initiated by the sector, with the emphasis on developing an action plan. “While the subject matter is very challenging, I believe we have a real opportunity to affect meaningful change,” says Donner.

There are 634 long-term care homes in Ontario. These homes are a mix of private, public, not-for-profit, charitable and municipally run facilities that operate close to 78,000 long-term care beds, and provide care and services to over 77,000 residents.