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More care needed for southwestern Ontario area nursing home residents to deal with rise in complex medical needs and dementia

London, ON– As the care needs and age of people in southwestern Ontario going into nursing homes with complex conditions are increasing, the Ontario government is willfully ignoring the evidence of over a hundred research studies that identify how to make care better and safer. Long-term care (LTC) staff are calling for a minimum of four hours of direct daily care for nursing home residents.

Mounting evidence shows that better care quality and health outcomes are directly linked to higher staffing levels. According to geriatric specialists, low staffing levels are associated with a higher prevalence of pressure ulcers, falls, weight loss and abuse and the inappropriate use of antipsychotics and restraints to control behaviours related to dementia and Alzheimer’s. In American states where a minimum direct care standard is legislated, care quality has improved, staffing levels have been increased and homes have less critical incidents and infractions.

Southwestern Ontario has one of the highest seniors populations province-wide and will see about a 151 per cent increase in older people with dementia over the next 25 years. By legislating a minimum care level, the Liberal government would “improve the lives of nursing home residents immeasurably,” said Kelly O’Sullivan with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario at a London media conference today.

Over the last 10 years 50 per cent of Ontario’s hospital-based complex continuing care beds and alternative level of care beds where many seniors with complex conditions received medical care have been closed by the provincial government. Consequently there has been a 29.7 per cent increase in the acuity level of LTC residents. 73 per cent of LTC residents in Ontario suffer from some form of Alzheimer’s or dementia. For over a decade several Ontario coroner’s inquests into nursing home deaths have recommended an increase in direct hands-on care for residents and an increase in staffing levels.

The provincial government does not provide adequate funding to ensure care and staffing levels in long-term care homes keeps pace with residents’ increasing acuity, saidO’Sullivan. Provincial underfunding for LTC has created a hugegap between the care residents’ need and care levels PSWs and RPNs are able to provide because there aren’t enough of them and they don’t have adequate time to provide needed care, she said. 

Many care staff go home at night crying, feeling defeated that they don’t have enough time to provide the level of care that many residents need and deserve. There simply isn’t enough staff. And much of our time is spend documenting to comply with government regulations and as the way to get provincial funding. Many of us come in early and forgo our lunch and breaks – essentially provide unpaid time to try and give residents more care. We are subsidizing an underfunded system with unpaid work,” said Deborah Maxfield an LTC activation worker in southwestern Ontario.

Ontario is the only Canadian province where the majority of LTC is provided by for-profit operators. Two-thirds of Ontario nursing homes are either owned by for-profit providers or managed by for-profit chains. Between 45,000 and 50,000 Ontario LTC residents are, either residing in nursing homes operated directly by for-profit companies or managed by them. Countless research studies show that for-profit facilities provide poorer quality care because they have lower staffing levels than non-profit and fully public municipal homes.

CUPE is calling on the Wynne government to:

  • Amend the Long-Term Care Homes Act (2007) for a legislated care standard of a minimum average of four hours per resident each day adjusted for acuity level and case mix
  • Increase funding to achieve a staffing and care standard and tie public funding for homes to the provision of quality care and staffing levels that meet the legislated daily minimum (average) minimum care standard of four hours
  • Make public reporting of staffing levels at each Ontario LTC home mandatory
  • Immediately provide funding for specialized facilities for persons with cognitive impairment who have been assessed as potentially aggressive, and staff them with sufficient numbers of appropriately trained workers
  • Stop closing complex continuing care beds and alternative level of care beds to end the downloading of hospital patients with complex medical conditions to long-term care homes.

For more information about CUPE Ontario’s Time to Care Campaign go to:                                         www.cupe.on.ca.

For more information please contact:

Kelly O’Sullivan                                                  
Chair, CUPE Ontario Health Care Workers                  

Stella Yeadon                                                     
CUPE Communications