Following yet another tragic death at an Ontario long-term care (LTC) residence, front-line nurses and personal support workers (PSWs) today renewed their appeal to Ontario’s health minister for increased care and staffing levels in nursing homes through legislation, training and protocols to deal with violent residents and for improved ministry enforcement of compliance orders issued against LTC operators.
“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the family of Joycelyn Dickson, who was attacked by another resident and died. We want assurances from the health minister that she will be taking immediate steps to prevent similar deaths, by making all seniors residences safer through a legislated care standard that will ensure increased staffing levels,” said Candace Rennick, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario secretary-treasurer and a former LTC worker.
Currently there is no mandatory, minimum care standard Ontario LTC homes are legislated to meet.
Wexford Residence where Ms. Dickson was killed is typical of many LTC operators that provide minimum night staffing. CUPE members who work in the sector say that often there is only one PSW to 24-30 patients per floor on overnight, and one registered nurse for every three floors.
“This is not defendable health policy. Ontario is not providing a level of care that is safe, adequate or dignified. Provincial funding for LTC must increase to prevent more tragic deaths, and the Liberal government must fulfill a commitment from 2003 to enact a minimum care standard,” said Rennick.
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. Based on the lower funding levels for health care in the 2012 budget, Ontario’s spending for LTC fell even farther behind other provinces.
Rennick also called on the health minister to enforce compliance orders against Wexford Residences. Based on available information on the ministry of health website, compliance orders issued for Wexford Residence include failure to follow up on complaints from families, unsafe resident transfers (which are usually indicative of understaffing), continence and bowel management, and failure to provide individual care plans for each resident.
While it is not confirmed that the resident charged in Ms. Dickson’s death had exhibited previous violent behavior toward other residents, CUPE LTC members are reporting an increase in the frequency of resident-to-resident violence in LTC homes province-wide.
“Our understanding is that front-line staff raised concerns with management about the violent behavior of the male resident involved in this incident,” said Rennick.