Several provisions in the Retirement Homes Act, 2010 (the “Act”) and the General Regulation (the “Regulation”) under the Act came into force on July 1, 2013. The provisions apply to every licensee of a retirement home and may require licensees to amend their policies and/or practices to ensure compliance with the Act. The provisions pertain to:
- The training of staff and volunteers;
- The establishment of a trust account when money is entrusted to the licensee on behalf of a resident.
Purpose of the Act
The Act received royal assent on June 8, 2010 and was created with the intention to instill standards within Ontario retirement homes to ensure that all residents are provided proper living conditions. The fundamental principle of the Act is to ensure that, among other things, each retirement home is “operated so that it is a place where residents live with dignity, respect, privacy, autonomy, in security, safety and comfort and can make informed choices about their care options.”
Section 65(2) of the Act, which was already in force, requires a licensee to ensure staff receive training in a number of areas. Specifically, section 65(2) of the Act requires that all staff who work in the home must be trained on:
- the Residents’ Bill of Rights;
- the licensee’s policy to promote zero tolerance of abuse and neglect of residents;
- the protection afforded for whistle-blowing described in the Act;
- the licensee’s policy regarding the use of personal assistance services devices for residents;
- injury prevention;
- fire prevention and safety;
- the licensee’s emergency evacuation plan for the home;
- the emergency plan and the infection prevention and control program of the licensee for the home required by the Act; and
- all Acts, regulations, policies of the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority and similar documents, including policies of the licensee, that are relevant to the staff member’s duties.
With the coming into force of section 65(4) licensees are now required to ensure staff receive ongoing training in the areas set out in section 65(2). Section 14(2) of the Regulation which is also now in force requires that such training is received at least annually.
The coming into force of section 65(5) of the Act and 14(3) of the Regulation means that additional training is now required for staff who provide direct care. Specifically, the Act and Regulation now require that such persons receive training on:
- abuse recognition and prevention;
- mental health issues (including caring for persons with dementia);
- behaviour management;
- ways to minimize the need for residents for personal assistance services devices and if a resident needs such a device, the way of using it in accordance with its manufacturer’s operating instructions; and
- the Regulation now requires that such persons receive training on (a) ways to encourage mental stimulation in residents and ways to provide mental stimulation to residents and the positive effects of encouraging and providing such mental stimulation; and (b) each care service offered in the retirement home.
Further, under Section 66, every licensee must now ensure that all volunteers are trained in applying the licensee’s emergency plan, the infection prevention and control program, the zero tolerance of abuse and neglect policy and in the Act’s protections for whistle-blowers.
Now that section 72 of the Act is in force, when money is entrusted to the care of a licensee on behalf of a resident, the licensee must establish a trust account in accordance with the rules set out in the Regulation. The Regulation requires a licensee to establish and maintain at least one non-interest bearing trust account at a financial institution for all money entrusted to the licensee. The licensee must also ensure that the balance of the trust account does not exceed the amount for which the account is insured. In addition to establishing a trust account, the licensee must also keep petty cash available that is sufficient to meet the daily needs of the residents who have money deposited in the trust account. The newly in force provisions in the Regulation also place further restrictions and requirements in relation to the establishment and maintenance of the trust account. These include that a licensee must not:
- hold more than $10,000 for any resident at any time;
- commingle resident funds held in trust with any other funds they may hold; or
- charge transaction fees for deposits or withdrawals from the fund.
Further, the Regulation now requires a licensee to:
- have a system to make records for the trust account;
- notify residents when and where he or she can make deposits and withdrawals from the trust account;
- provide receipts for any transaction involving the trust account; and
- provide residents with funds in the trust account with an itemized quarterly explanation of the balance and any transactions that took place.
The provisions, now that they are in force, place greater responsibilities upon licensees and carry potentially serious consequences for non-compliance. If a licensee does not take the appropriate measures to ensure compliance with the provisions discussed above, a licensee may be ordered to pay an administrative penalty (not exceeding $10,000) to the Retirement Homes Regulatory Authority (the “Authority”) and ultimately the Act gives the Registrar of the Authority the power to order that a licensee have their license revoked. As such, licensees should be sure that they fully understand their obligations under the Act and seek professional assistance where required.