85,000 residents in the province’s long-term care homes have waited for more than eight years for Ontario’s Liberal government to make good on a long-promised minimum standard of care, and the time for them to act is now, advocates for better long-term care said at a Kingston media conference yesterday.
“The Liberal government first promised a legislated care standard in 2003. So far they have let vulnerable seniors down,” said Michael Hurley president of the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario. CUPE represents 30,000 personal support workers (PSWs), registered practical nurses (RPNs), health care and dietary aides who provide direct care to LTC residents province-wide.
Most residents entering LTC facilities are over 85 years old. They are frail and have many complex medical needs. “Because of their age their personal care needs are higher than residents’ needs a decade ago. They need help with feeding, dressing, toileting and being moved from beds to chairs in addition to nursing medical care,” said Hurley.
At today’s media conference front line staff Joanne Waddell and 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 scheduled,” said Waddell.
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.
“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,” said Soucie.
In the coming weeks PSWs, dietary aides and RPNs are reaching out to their members of provincial parliament (MPP) and urging them to champion minimum 3.5 hours of care standard in the upcoming session at Queen’s Park.
Recently direct care workers requested to meet with Kingston Liberal MPP John Gerretsen. His office has indicated that Gerretsen has been away and cannot meet with them at this time. But area LTC workers say action on a hands-on care standard is needed now. Residents have waited long enough, they say.
“All the action plans in the world don’t add up to much if you don’t legislate a minimum standard of 3.5 hours of care per resident, per day,” said Hurley referring to the Liberal government’s recent health care “action plan” announcement. “We urge the health minister to bring dignity back to long-term care residents with a legislated minimum care standard, not with ‘action plans’.”
For more on the need for a minimum care standard in LTC and to view the 3.5 hrs video, visit http://www.cupe.on.ca/timetocare