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The Windsor Star
Wed 26 Sep 2007
Page: A2
Section: News
Byline: Doug Williamson
Source: Windsor Star
Elderly residents of Ontario’s long-term care homes are getting “assembly line care” because of staff shortages, according to the Canadian Union of Public Employees Ontario.

On Tuesday, the union released a survey that shows 86 per cent of Ontario’s long-term care workers have “worked short” (short-staffed) between one and 20 times per month.

The union has accused the provincial governing Liberals of backing off from a promise to institute minimum care standards for the frail and elderly, saying that residents in these facilities need at least 3.5 hours of care per day, which matches the standard in Alberta. To reach these levels, the union says, staffing must be increased.

“Your working conditions are the living conditions of seniors,” Fred Hahn, the union’s secretary treasurer, told dozens of CUPE members gathered around the union’s election campaign bus in Dieppe Gardens. “We know that seniors deserve proper care.”

The survey was released by the union as 250 members of CUPE Ontario’s Health Care Workers Co-ordinating Committee met in Windsor for their annual conference.

Because of a funding shortfall and resulting lower staffing levels, long-term care residents are treated to “assembly line care,” said Diane Cormier, a health care aide from St. Catharines.

Staff come in early and leave late, skip breaks and barely have enough time to provide care such as bathing, she said.

“They should increase staffing levels. Right now, it’s assembly line care.”
Sue Schmidt, the co-ordinating committee’s chair, said injuries are on the increase and stress levels are high among overstretched workers.

“The residents are older, frailer. They don’t come in walking anymore,” Schmidt said. “I don’t believe any of the residents are getting poor care. But it can’t go on any longer.”
James Egan, administrator of Extendicare — a long-term care facility in Tecumseh where Monday an ailing amputee resident staged a one-man demonstration to protest deteriorating care he blames on cuts to nursing hours — said his site receives a provincial subsidy of $2.5 million, and residents or their families pay another $2.8 million. He has 140 employees.

Egan agreed staff in these homes are often scrambling, and said his and other facilities would love to see a funding increase so they can increase staff levels.

“There’s no doubt of that,” Egan said. “Staff in every home are run off their feet, and every home desires to hire more staff.”

He said if someone calls in sick, other workers are asked to work overtime on that shift or the tasks such as bathing of residents are done by the next day. Often, a worker will be called in just to do bathing.