The Ontario government says it will double the number of long-term care home inspectors within the next year.
Long-term Care Minister Rod Phillips announced Tuesday that $20 million has been allocated to hire 193 new inspections staff by the fall of 2023.
Phillips said this will result in a ratio of one inspector for every two LTC homes, which will be the best ratio in Canada.
The minister said it will ensure there are enough inspectors to proactively visit each home every year while continuing reactive inspections to address complaints and critical incidents when they occur.
Some of the new inspectors will have an investigative background.
Phillips said this will ensure that, for the first time, staff will have the skills and certification needed to investigate and lay provincial offence charges if warranted.
The government also announced it is launching an improved proactive inspections program that adds to the current risk-based program of responding to complaints and critical incidents.
The new program allows for direct discussion with residents to focus on their care needs as well as the home's programs and services.
The announcement precedes legislation expected to be introduced within days which will empower inspectors with stronger enforcement tools.
Phillips said the government is acting on recommendations from a commission that examined conditions in the province's long-term care homes, where thousands of residents have died or became infected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Ontario Health Coalition welcomed the plan to hire inspectors with investigative skills, but said new inspectors won't be hired until next June's provincial election.
It also described the announcement as "long on PR," saying it explicitly does not commit to reinstating annual comprehensive inspections of all homes.
"The fact that the minister pointedly did not promise a reinstatement of the in-depth surprise inspections that the Ford government cancelled after it took office is a major failure," said Natalie Mehra, executive director of the coalition.
"It neither conforms to what the Long-term Care Commission recommended nor does it serve the public interest," she added.