The Ontario Liberal government must make improved safety for 200,000 residents of older nursing and retirement homes a priority and force these homes to install sprinklers and increase staffing levels, says Fred Hahn, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees
CUPE supports the sound recommendations by the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs to prevent needless deaths of elderly people by mandating nursing and retirement homes to install sprinkler systems and increase staffing levels.
“Legislating sprinklers and a staffing standard will save lives. It’s the ethical thing to do,” adds Hahn.
CUPE represents over 25,000 members at over 220 long-term care (LTC) facilities across Ontario, including charitable homes, homes for the aged, nursing homes and retirement homes. Consistently over the last decade, CUPE has called on the provincial government to strengthen regulations, inspection and enforcement regimes to better protect vulnerable LTC residents. This includes urging the health minister to enact a minimum standard of 3.5 hours of hands-on daily care for residents.
Since the mid-90s when the Mike Harris Conservative government scrapped a minimum care standard for homes, staffing levels and consequently daily hands-on care for residents has not kept up with the increases in care needs of residents, let alone fulfilled the promise of providing residents with the full amount of care they require.
“In many facilities, staffing levels are dismally low, particularly at night. The fire chiefs are right when they say that elderly and frail residents’ lives are put at risk because of the lack of sprinklers and rampant short-staffing at homes,” says Candace Rennick, CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer and an LTC worker for 15 years.
Ontario has the most privatized long-term care sector in the country, with the majority of homes now owned and operated by for-profit companies, many of them multinational chains.
“The for-profit industry has created a powerful and aggressive lobby for fewer strings attached. The result has been a virtual warehousing of seniors who need care and respect. It’s time that the Premier and health minister fulfill a promise they made nearly a decade ago to increase care levels at homes,” Rennick says.
Funding for LTC in the 2012 Ontario budget is less than it was last year. “This will exacerbate the situation. Funding does not keep up with inflation or the needs of the province’s aging population. Increasing care and provide a safe environment,” says Hahn.
In support of the fire chiefs’ recommendations, CUPE is urging the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care to direct homes to conduct evacuation exercises on all staffing shifts in partnership with the unions representing front line workers.
For more information please contact:
Fred Hahn President, CUPE Ontario (416) 540-3979
Candace Rennick Secretary-Treasurer CUPE Ontario (705) 768-2288
Stella Yeadon CUPE Communications (416) 559-9300