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North Bay Nugget (ON)
Fri 27 Jun 2008 

Unionized long-term care workers press the Ontario government for regulated minimum standards of care Thursday by staging a rock-a-thon” near Cassellholme Home for the Aged.

Sid Ryan, Ontario president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the Liberal government hasn’t lived up to promises it would reinstate minimum standards which were removed by the Conservatives more than a decade ago.

Participants took turns sitting in a rocking chair on the sidewalk on Cassells Street demonstrating that the province is making a lot of moves but isn’t getting anywhere.

Ryan said seniors in nursing homes are ill done by” as the Liberals conduct study after study.”

Recommendations by Nipissing MPP Monique Smith, who reviewed long-term care while parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Health in 2004, were shelved, Ryan said, and last week’s report by Shirley Sharkey also got it wrong.”

There’s no real assistance, no real help . . . it’s a disgrace,” he said. Henri Giroux, CUPE Local 146 president, said Cassellholme’s case management index increased by six per cent last fall to reflect how much more work is required to care for their residents.

But Giroux said they should have received $300,000 more in funding and only two personal support workers were hired. There’s lots of burnout and they’re paying lots of overtime because people are not coming to work . . . there’s not enough hands,” he said.

Giroux didn’t know how many more unionized workers his local has since the Liberals took over in 2003. It hasn’t gone up that much, three or four including the two hired this year,” he said. After consulting with one of the registered practical nurses at the protest, he said four more personal support workers and two more nurses are needed.

CUPE wants the province to adopt a minimum regulated standard of care that provides 3.5 hours of care to residents per day on average, adding most other jurisdictions have minimum standards.

Asked specifically what kind of care Cassellholme residents are not getting, Giroux said the problems and the battle to improve care are provincewide. I can’t say they really suffer (at Cassellholme) to the point they are not getting the help they need, just it could be better.”

Smith said Ryan usually doesn’t get his facts straight” and there’s no consensus among care workers about what should be considered minimum standards.

That’s why Sharkey recommended all the stakeholders and caregivers come together to develop local staffing plans to be monitored by the Ontario Health Quality Council.

And Smith said the jurisdictions that do have minimum standards are actually lower than what the province would like to see here.

As for her report being shelved, Smith said most of her big recommendations have been implemented, including a minimum of two baths per week, thousands of new staff hired, reporting and review systems for complaints and surprise inspections.

Coun. Dave Mendicino, chairman of the Cassellholme board of directors, said Giroux should keep his focus on pushing the province to increase its per resident funding levels and not attack management.

Mendicino said the increase in case management is due to better reporting systems and paperwork the union fought.

He said Cassellhome has one of the lowest staff-to-resident ratios in the province, adding that nobody was laid off in 2007 when funding dropped by $100,000 because of a lower case management index.

Click to see photographs

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