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Letter to the editor: Improvements to staffing in long-term care

Improvements to staffing in long-term care.

Dear Ministers Rickford, Fullerton and Elliott;

Thank you very much for listening to our concerns regarding staffing in long-term care. As members of the Kenora Seniors Coalition, the lack of adequate long-term care staffing concerns every one of us, and should concern you too, as we ask ourselves the question, "Is this what older adults needing long-term care have to look forward to?”

We appreciate that the government has recently allocated funding for additional long-term care beds, but additional funding also needs to be allocated to deal with the longstanding problem of woefully inadequate staffing. This is the single most important factor in the failure to treat both residents and care providers with dignity and respect.

To quote from, They Deserve Better, the Long-Term Care Experience in Canada and Scandinavia: "Better pay and benefits, as well as more full-time work would also keep workers on the job and doing the work in a way that allowed continuity of care for the residents, an especially important issue for the growing numbers with dementia. More pay and time for training and for breaks would also help, but neither addresses the fundamental problem of too few people to provide care, ..."

The Canadian Armed Forces Report drew our attention to a harrowing list of deplorable conditions in long-term care that have been a problem for decades: "Patients left in beds soiled in diapers; respecting dignity of patients not always a priority. Caregiver burnout noted among staff; unsafe nursing medication administration errors; nurses appearing to document assessments without actually having assessed the resident; multiple falls, without required assessments following the fall; lack of knowledge evident regarding what qualifies as restraint, not to mention cockroaches, flies and the smell of rotting food."

Ministers, I'm sure you would all agree that these are NOT the living conditions that seniors needing long-term care should be anticipating.

In this fiscal year, it would cost about $1.8 billion to increase the hours of care per resident from 2.71 to 4.1 and equalize wage rates across the long-term care sector. $1.6 billion of that increased spending would go toward hiring more staff or increasing hours of work in order to increase the hours of care available to residents; the remaining $285 million would go to wage equalization.

These increases would account for about 3 per cent of total health spending by the government and just over 1 per cent of overall program spending. Are Ontario seniors worth it?

We hope that you would answer yes to the above question, and move forward immediately to increase the hours of care provided to each long-term care resident in Ontario. It is not the facility or the number of beds, it is the people who are needed to care for our seniors with dignity. To provide seniors with adequate care, each long-term care home should have trained career staff, medical staff and housekeeping staff on site 24/7, and a resident to staff ratio of four residents to one PSW.

The province of Quebec has taken the unprecedented step of launching an ambitious three-month paid training plan to train 10,000 new PSWs who have committed to working full-time in its long-term care facilities. People who successfully completed the training - which was paid at a rate of $760 a week – were guaranteed a full-time job as of September at a long-term care facility.

Premier Ford has referred to the CAF reports as heartbreaking and gut-wrenching. We are sure that, as Ministers of the current Ontario government, you do not want to see seniors go through five more years of this neglect. Please make fixing the inadequate staffing levels in long-term care an immediate priority of your government.

Carolyn Hudson, President
Kenora Seniors Coalition


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