06/04/2013 01:43 EDT | Updated 08/04/2013 05:12 EDT

NDP say Ontario not inspecting long-term care homes as frequently as promised

TORONTO - Ontario's Liberal government is breaking its promise to ensure all long-term care homes get a full "resident quality inspection" at least once a year, the New Democrats charged Tuesday.

"It's a disgrace that this minister refuses to acknowledge publicly that they only inspected 123 of the 600 homes they were supposed to have had inspected, and she needs to come clean on the facts in this regard," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told the legislature.

"The inspection process promised by the government would mean inspectors would show up unannounced each and every year, and could conduct thorough, proactive inspections so that crises could be prevented before they actually happen."

Health Minister Deb Matthews insisted every long-term care home in the province is visited by an inspector at least once a year, and said on average, there are 3.7 inspections per year per home.

"I think it is a disgrace that the leader of the third party is creating the impression that homes are not inspected, because they are inspected," said Matthews.

However, Horwath accused Matthews of playing games with numbers and not being completely truthful about the types of inspections being carried out.

"I was shocked that the minister stood in her place and continued to deny that this is a problem, continued to cover up the fact that these inspections are not happening," Horwath said outside the legislature.

"She used all kinds of other numbers ... but she didn't take an honest approach with the people of Ontario because she did not admit that in fact they have failed on their promise to seniors to inspect these facilities on an annual basis."

The Progressive Conservatives said they did not believe long-term care homes were being inspected as often as they should be.

"They need to be inspected because we're dealing with extremely vulnerable populations here, and we've certainly heard a lot of stories about how some of our seniors are being mistreated," said PC health critic Christine Elliott.

The government points out it has conducted 6,700 complaint, critical incident or follow-up inspections at long-term care homes since 2010. Those spot inspections are triggered by incidents like abuse or falls that homes report, or by complaints from residents, family members, staff or the general public.

There are also inspections in homes that have not had a complaint, critical incident or follow-up inspection or residential quality inspection. The government said these inspections ensure the ministry meets its legislative obligations to inspect every LTC home every year.

It is important that the public who need to have confidence in the long-term care homes know that they are being inspected, and that the standards are high, added Matthews.

"I can guarantee that all of our long-term-care homes receive inspections every year at least."