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Scrutiny of private nursing homes in Ontario has plummeted under the Conservative government, with inspectors reassigned to help hand even more long-term care beds to the private sector.

Documents obtained by the Canadian Press under the freedom of information law show a 40 per cent drop in regular inspections of 509 long-term care homes between 1996 and 1999. Some homes hadnt been inspected for almost three years violating government policy that requires a full review of a home at least once a year.

Some homes that were inspected got short shrift, getting less than the required three- to seven-day review.

The CP report found that inspectors registered nurses with bachelors degrees were put to work helping the government evaluate bids for extending the number of private long-term care beds in the province.

Facing opposition accusations of leaving vulnerable seniors at risk, the Tories announced new money to hire more staff and track yearly inspections. At the same time, an office has been set up to continue to process new bids for long-term care beds, to ensure that their privatization push can continue apace.