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KITCHENER, ON – 85,000 residents in long-term care (LTC) homes and another 24,000 frail seniors on a wait-list for a nursing home bed will be adversely affected by cuts to health care funding announced in the 2012 Ontario budget, said direct care LTC staff at a Kitchener media conference today.
They urged action on a Liberal promise from 2003 to enact a minimum care standard for LTC residents and for Members of Parliament (MPP)s from all parties to challenge severe funding cuts for health services including a lower funding level for LTC than in 2011. For Ontario communities like Kitchener already experiencing LTC bed shortages this means wait-lists for spaces will increase, while those residents in area nursing homes will receive less hands-on care time as facilities struggle with decreased provincial funding.
“Putting health service cost-cutting ahead of the care needs of vulnerable LTC residents is not defendable health policy,” said Hurley the president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE).
According to Statistics Canada, Ontario spends $155.30 per LTC resident a day. This is far less than Quebec at $254.30, Saskatchewan at $216.70 and Alberta at $201.80. Only PEI and New Brunswick spend less. Based on the recent Ontario budget announcement Ontario’s spending for LTC would fall further behind other provinces, said Hurley.
OCHU/CUPE is advocating for a minimum standard of care of 3.5 hours of direct care per day for LTC residents. Currently there is no mandatory minimum care standard LTC homes are legislated to meet.
At today’s media conference LTC direct care worker Bonnie Soucie described the challenges faced by long-term care workers in providing care with dignity for residents in an under-resourced and under-staffed LTC system.
“There is no dignity in assembly-line feeding. It should take as long as the resident needs to fully finish a meal. Not the six minutes now scheduled. It breaks my heart when residents say that they are lonely – and I want to stay and talk with them, but I can’t because we don’t have enough staff on the floor. MPPs must help change that by pushing for a legislated care standard,” said Soucie who along with many LTC staff have been lobbying their local representatives for a legislated care standard.
A recent report by the Ombudsperson in British Columbia in fact makes a clear recommendation to legislate a care standard in that province.
“The best way to ensure that residents receive the care they need is for the province to enact a regulatory care standard. Hands-on care levels for residents should not be left to the whims of individual nursing home managers,” said Hurley. “Years ago the Liberals made a commitment to seniors in this province to legislate a care standard. It’s time they made good on that promise.”
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications – 416-559-9300