February 25th, 2021

Gélinas presents bill to protect vulnerable adults from abuse and neglect

QUEEN’S PARK — NDP Health critic France Gélinas presented a bill on Thursday to protect vulnerable people in Ontario by requiring that health care workers have a path to report abuse.

“Every year, children and youth escape from abusive situations because of mandatory reporting laws. It’s time to afford the same protection to all Ontarians,” said Gélinas. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen how important oversight is to vulnerable people’s well-being. This bill will improve oversight and provide people with more protection and safety.”

Every month regulated health professionals become aware of possible abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, there is very little they can do to help. Gélinas’ bill, Support for Adults in Need of Assistance Act, would cover vulnerable adults by establishing a duty to report for regulated health professionals. When a health professional has reasonable suspicion that an adult is being abused or neglected, they will have to report it, and it will be investigated.

“Right now if a nurse gives someone a bath and notices that their back is covered with cigarette burns, the nurse should have not only a requirement to report, but a clear path to do that. This creates a requirement that regulated health professionals report to a board of health if they have reasonable suspicion that an individual who is 16 years of age or older is being abused or neglected,” said Gélinas.

On top of mandatory reporting, the bill also sets out time limits within which the report must be assessed and verified, and gives employees certain rights of entry into premises to carry out investigations.

David Groulx, President of the Sudbury Chapter of RNAO recognized the bill’s importance for nurses. “Nurses have an obligation to ensure the safety of the clients they serve. This is an obligation that nurses do not take lightly, however they also require the appropriate tools to ensure client safety. This bill is a very important step in making sure that the nurses, who are caring for vulnerable adults, have the policy levers necessary to fulfill their obligations and provide the care and protection that their patients deserve,” said Groulx.

The Support for Adults in Need of Assistance Act requires the establishment of a review team, to review cases and recommend a support and assistance plan for individuals in need. The act requires the collection of data on the reported cases of abuse or neglect (including the number of reports, reasons for reporting and outcomes of the reports) and to publish this information every six months.

CanAge CEO and elder law expert Laura Tamblyn Watts, supports the bill. "We can no longer turn a blind eye to abuse,” said Tamblyn Watts. “CanAge supports this Act and applauds its call for a duty to report, established response times. Protecting regulated health professionals with safe harbour from liability is also key, and barriers to abused older adults getting the assistance they need.”