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North Bay, ON – As the care needs and age of people in northeastern Ontario going into nursing homes with complex conditions are increasing, the Ontario government is willfully ignoring the evidence of over a hundred research studies that identify how to make care better and safer, say members of a coalition pushing for a minimum of 4 hours of direct daily care for nursing home residents.
Mounting evidence shows that better care quality and health outcomes are directly linked to higher staffing levels. According to geriatric specialists, low staffing levels are associated with a higher prevalence of pressure ulcers, falls, weight loss and abuse and the inappropriate use of antipsychotics and restraints to control behaviours related to dementia and Alzheimer’s. In American states where a minimum direct care standard is legislated, care quality has improved, staffing levels have been increased and homes have less critical incidents and infractions.
With 18 per cent of the population aged 65 plus, northeastern Ontario already has a higher proportion of seniors compared to the Ontario average of 14 per cent. By 2036 the number of people in northeastern Ontario 65 years old and over is expected to increase from 18 per cent to 30 per cent. Dementia rates are estimated to climb by 127 per cent over the same period. By legislating a minimum care level the Liberal government would, “improve the lives of nursing home residents immeasurably,” said Kelly O’Sullivan with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario at a North Bay media conference today.
Over the last 10 years 50 per cent of Ontario’s hospital-based complex continuing care beds and alternative level of care beds where many seniors with complex conditions received medical care have been closed by the provincial government. Consequently there has been a 29.7 per cent increase in the acuity level of LTC residents. 73 per cent of LTC residents in Ontario suffer from some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia. For over a decade several Ontario coroner’s inquests into nursing home deaths have recommended an increase in direct hands-on care for residents and an increase in staffing levels.
The provincial government does not provide adequate funding to ensure care and staffing levels in long-term care homes keep pace with residents’ increasing acuity, said O’Sullivan. Provincial underfunding for LTC has created a huge gap between the care residents’ need and the care levels PSWs and RPNs are able to provide, because there aren’t enough of them and they don’t have adequate time to provide needed care, she said.
“Many care staff go home at night crying, feeling defeated that they don’t have enough time to provide the level of care that many residents need and deserve. There simply isn’t enough staff. Much of our time is spent documenting in order to comply with government regulations but also as the way to get provincial funding. Many of us come in early and forgo our lunch and breaks – essentially provide unpaid time to try and give residents more care. We are subsidizing an underfunded system with unpaid work,”
said Amanda Farrow a North Bay area LTC registered practical nurse.
Countless research studies show that for-profit facilities provide poorer quality care because they have lower staffing levels than non-profit and fully public municipal homes. Ontario is the only Canadian province where the majority of LTC is provided by for-profit operators. Two-thirds of Ontario nursing homes are either owned by for-profit providers or managed by for-profit chains. Between 45,000 and 50,000 Ontario LTC residents are, either residing in nursing homes operated directly by for-profit companies or managed by them.
CUPE is calling on the Kathleen Wynne Liberal government to:
- Amend the Long-Term Care Homes Act (2007) for a legislated care standard of a minimum average of 4 hours per resident each day adjusted for acuity level and case mix;
- Increase funding to achieve a staffing and care standard and tie public funding for homes to the provision of quality care and staffing levels that meet the legislated daily minimum (average) care standard of 4 hours;
- Make public reporting of staffing levels at each Ontario LTC home mandatory;
- Immediately provide funding for specialized facilities for persons with cognitive impairment who have been assessed as potentially aggressive, and staff them with sufficient numbers of appropriately trained workers;
- Stop closing complex continuing care beds and alternative level of care beds to end the downloading of hospital patients with complex medical conditions to LTC homes.
For more information please contact:
Kelly O’Sullivan, Chair, CUPE Ontario Health Care Workers, 416-529-9600
Stella Yeadon, CUPE Communications, 416-559-9300
For more information about CUPE Ontario’s Time to Care Campaign go to: www.cupe.on.ca