Quebec's Health Ministry is looking to increase the number of inspections carried out in private seniors' residences by increasing the number of inspectors in the province nearly fourfold.
The Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS) has posted 19 new positions for inspectors in résidences pour aînés (RPAs), or private seniors' residences, as there are currently only seven inspectors to serve over 1,000 homes in the province.
The average RPA receives a visit from an inspector every four years, but the province is looking to increase that frequency once it ups personnel from seven to 26.
"We would like one visit per year to each private seniors' residence," said MSSS spokesperson Marie-Hélène Émond.
To monitor the 1,750 RPAs in Quebec, the MSSS has four inspectors in Montreal and three in the Quebec City region.
The president of the union that represents inspectors, the Syndicat de la fonction publique et parapublique du Québec (SFPQ), Christian Daigle, says he is "very happy" with the increase in staff, but he is disappointed that the announcement wasn't made publicly.
"They did it on the sly because they were embarrassed that there are only seven inspectors [now]," he said.
"To us, it means the government recognizes that they were under-resourced on the inspection side."
Inspections essential for the safety of seniors
Among the problems most often found by inspectors in seniors' residences are non-compliant fire safety plans, deficiencies in infection prevention and control or falls prevention, non-compliance with the minimum number of employees present in the residence and non-compliant medication management.
In exceptional cases of non-compliance, an RPA may be decertified. Most of the time, follow-ups are carried out to ensure that corrective measures have been put in place.
Seniors' advocacy group the Regroupement québécois des résidences privées pour aînés (RQRA) has shown itself to be very open to having more inspections in RPAs.
No added inspectors for CHSLDs, Quebec plans changes
The SFPQ said it would like to see inspections similar to those carried out in RPAs be done in residential and long-term care homes (CHSLDs).
Every three years, CHSLDs must undergo a visit to assess the quality of the living environment, but these unannounced visits are similar to observations and are not conducted by inspectors with enforcement powers who can issue notices of non-compliance.
Two evaluators, a civil servant and a representative of users' committees, can make recommendations, if necessary, and the home may be required to submit an improvement plan.
"For inspections in CHSLDs, there have been no additional positions added for the time being for evaluators. Reflections are underway," said Émond from the MSSS.
Last week, after Quebec's ombudsman submitted her final report into what went wrong in the province's long-term care homes during the first wave of the pandemic, Health Minister Christian Dubé said the ministry was already working on changes, including increasing the frequency of inspections of long-term care homes.
This would be to ensure infection prevention and control measures continue to be in place and that the homes are adequately staffed.