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Every Resident - Bill of Rights for people who live in Ontario long-term care homes

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What can I do if my rights are violated?

If you believe your rights under the Bill of Rights have been violated, you can do any of the following:

  1. Make a complaint to the long-term care home.
  2. Make a complaint to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
  3. Sue the long-term care home for breach of contract.
  4. Consider other options.

The next four sections take a closer look at each of these options. No matter which option you choose, make sure to find out if there are time limits. You also need to find out if choosing one option will affect what else you can do.

1. Making a complaint to the long-term care home

The law says that you have a right to make a complaint about the care you are getting or about the long-term care home. This includes any complaints you have about the violation of your rights under the Residents' Bill of Rights. Your complaint might be about something specific that happened or about general behaviour that violates your rights.

Ask the staff of the home for a copy of the home's complaint process. You have a right to get this information in writing. The home's complaint process must meet standards that are set out in the law.

You can make your complaint in writing or by speaking to any staff of the home. If you make your complaint in writing, the home must send a copy of it to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

The law says that the long-term care home must respond to your complaint within 10 business days from the date they receive it. The home must let you know what they have done about the problem. If they cannot find a solution in 10 business days, they must let you know when they expect to. If the home thinks that your complaint is not valid, they must tell you why.

For complaints about harm or risk of harm, the home must investigate the problem immediately. If the complaint is about abuse that the home suspects might be a criminal offence, they must call the police right away.

It is important to keep notes about your complaint. If you make your complaint by speaking to staff, write down the date you do this and the name of the person you spoke to. If you make your complaint in writing, keep a copy of it. You should also make notes about anything the home says to you about your complaint. The home does not have to give you a written response, even if you make your complaint in writing.

2. Making a complaint to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

You can complain directly to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care if you do not want to complain to the home. Some homes might tell you that you must follow their complaint policy and not complain to the Ministry directly. This is not true. You can make your complaint to the Ministry at any time, even if you have started to follow the home’s complaint process. You do not have to complete the home’s complaint process before contacting the Ministry.

For minor problems, however, you may want to try to find a solution by going through the home’s complaint process before you contact the Ministry.

In some cases, such as where there is suspected abuse or neglect, or where there has been a serious injury, the home is required to report the incident to the Ministry, and the Ministry must investigate. This does not mean that you should not also make a complaint to the Ministry, as the home may have failed to report it, or their view of the incident may be different from yours.

There are two ways to make a complaint directly to the Ministry — by telephone or in writing.

You may call the Long-term Care ACTION Line toll-free at 1-866-434-0144; TTY users call 1-800-387-5559. This is the best way for urgent problems, such as harm, neglect, or danger to residents.

You need to give as much information as you can about the issue. You should include:

  • name of the home
  • address of the home
  • a description of what happened and
  • when and where it happened
  • who was involved
  • what you would like done to resolve the complaint

The people answering the ACTION Line are not inspectors, so they will not be able to answer detailed questions or give advice.

They will pass your information to a “triage inspector” who will call you, usually within 2 business days. If the triage inspector thinks that the home might be breaking the rules, they will get an inspector for the area where the home is located, to investigate.

If you leave your name and number, the second inspector will contact you later to let you know how the issue was handled. If you do not leave your name and number, the issue will still be looked into, but the inspector will not be able to contact you to let you know how the issue was handled.

If you prefer, and if the matter is less urgent (for example less serious complaints related to diet, activities or care), you can write the Ministry at:

Director, Performance Improvement and Compliance Branch
Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
11th Floor
1075 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M5S 2B1

You should keep a copy of your complaint. Written complaints go through the same process of review and inspection as complaints made by telephone.

3. Suing the long-term care home for breach of contract

By law, your long-term care home has made an agreement with you to respect your rights under the Residents' Bill of Rights. So, if these rights are violated, it means that the home has broken the agreement. A lawyer can give you advice about suing the home for "breach of contract", in other words, for breaking the contract. Or you can start a claim on your own in Small Claims Court.

If you need help to find a lawyer, you can contact the Law Society Referral Service for the name of a lawyer in or near your community. The lawyer will speak with you for up to 30 minutes free of charge.For more information, go to www.stepstojustice.ca and see the information about Small Claims Court in the Tribunals and Courts section.

4. Consider other options

Depending on what your complaint is about, you may be able to take your complaint to other places.

Police

If a crime has been committed against you, you may want to report it to the police.

Professional Colleges

If your complaint is about a doctor, nurse, physiotherapist, other regulated healthcare professional, or social worker, you can make a complaint to the organization that regulates that person's profession. The names of these organizations often begin with the word "College". For example, doctors are regulated by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

Contact information for the colleges that govern health care professions in Ontario can be found in a few places:

You can go to the Federation of Health Regulatory Colleges of Ontario website: http://www.regulatedhealthprofessions.on.ca/professionscolleges.html

You can also go to www.hprac.org and then click on “Useful links” at the top of the page.

Or you can call ServiceOntario at the numbers below. To speak to someone, press 0 or stay on the line.

Toll-free 1-866-532-3161

Toll-free TTY 1-800-387-5559

Toronto area 416-327-4327

If your complaint is about a social worker, you can contact the Ontario College of Social Workers and Social Service Workers. For more information, go to their website at www.ocswssw.org or phone:

Toll-free 1-877-828-9380

Toronto area 416-972-9882

Human Rights

If you believe you have been discriminated against, you can take your complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO). This is called making an application to the HRTO. Discrimination includes being treated unfairly because of your race, age, disability, sexual orientation, ethnic background, or religious beliefs. These are just some of the kinds of discrimination.

For more information about making an application to the HRTO, visit their website at www.sjto.gov.on.ca/hrto/ or call them:

Toll-free 1-866-598-0322

Toronto area 416-326-1312

TTY 1-800-855-0511 (Bell Relay Service)

If you would like more information about the law against discrimination, or if you need help or advice about making an application to the HRTO, visit the website of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre at www.hrlsc.on.ca or call them:

Toll-free 1-866-625-5179

Toll-free TTY 1-866-612-8627

Toronto area 416-597-4900

TTY, Toronto area 416-597-4903