Ontario's Liberal government is promising to double the number of long-term care home inspectors.
The move comes after repeated safety violations at care homes and revelations by the opposition that thorough, annual inspections were not happening despite government promises.
Health Minister Deb Matthews is promising to hire enough inspectors to conduct a detailed surprise inspection of every Ontario nursing home by the end of 2014, and annually after that.
"We think residents of long-term care deserve to have the confidence that they are receiving the highest quality standards of care," Matthews said Monday.
NDP health critic France Gélinas said annual inspections were supposed to start happening three years ago.
"I feel like I'm having a bad case of déjà vu all over again because the same minister made the same announcement in 2010."
Only 20% of Ontario homes inspected
But since that time, only one in five long-term care homes in Ontario has received an in-depth inspection.
Matthews admits the government did not hire enough staff to conduct the inspections.
The detailed inspections take up to 10 days to complete and involve interviews with management, staff and residents.
Devora Greenspon lives in a Toronto nursing home that just went through an in-depth provincial inspection.
"There was a difference and the staff is much more aware of what they need to do," she said.
Camille Parent secretly videotaped staff at his mother's nursing home in Peterborough after suspecting abuse. He was shocked by what he saw and wants tougher consequences for homes that break the rules, not just more oversight.
"You can double the number of [police officers] on the 401 and if they don't give speeding tickets, you're still going to speed," Parent said. "So I think it's smoke and mirrors."
'We just feel more empowered'
Jane Meadus, with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, believes the increased oversight will encourage nursing homes to tighten the way they run the residences.
"With the additional inspections, I'm hoping that they'll catch things and we'll have much better care in the homes," she said.
Some residents in nursing homes said they can already see the difference.
"We just feel more empowered than we used to and I've been in my home for seven years," said Milly Radford, who lives in long-term care.
But there's still some concern about the homes being understaffed. The reliance newer staff, many of whom are temporary workers, means some are less experienced or unfamiliar with residents.
"Think about them giving out medications or being a change nurse. They make mistakes; they don't know us," Radford said.