Ontario government indifference to care quality, provincial policies and low funding for long-term care are fostering systemic neglect of residents, say personal support workers (PSWs) and registered practical nurses (RPNs) who took part in intensive focus group sessions in five Ontario communities.
“What PSWs and RPNs told us are frank, powerful and often heartbreaking accounts of how, despite their outmost efforts and dedication, they are forced to provide what amounts to substandard care to residents,” said Kevin Tyrrell, a regional vice-president with the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU) in releasing the focus group report, Long-Term Care in Ontario: Fostering Systemic Neglect, at a Fort Frances media conference today.
While the PSWs and RPNs said, while they stay in the field because they have an affinity for the work and genuine care for residents, they are demoralized and defeated by routine understaffing and chronically low staffing levels which are resulting in lonely, isolated and often depressed residents. PSWs and RPNs simply don’t have adequate time to provide residents with the social and emotional care they desperately need, said the focus group participants.
It’s the provision of emotional care that is key to providing LTC residents with a “home” to live in, rather than a facility where they are simply “warehoused,” said Dorothy Winterburn, a PSW who told of her own challenges in providing care quality she can be proud of.
Ninety-one per cent of the study participants said they are not able to provide good quality care, while 97 per cent identified not enough staff and heavy workloads as the key reasons they cannot provide quality care. They identified dangerously high resident-to-staff ratios – up to 15 residents per PSW on dayshifts and up to 42 residents per PSW on nightshifts. RPN staffing ranged from 30-42 per resident on both the day and nightshift.
The report calls for a legislated four-hour daily care standard and a higher ratio of direct care staff.
Chronic understaffing and short-staffing is fueling a barrage of injuries (in both residents and staff), infection, bed sores, abuse and unsafe work practices. Short-staffing they said is hastening incontinence and loss of mobility in residents because there are not enough PSWs to toilet residents as needed. “This is the ultimate indignity for residents. They deserve much better.
Lax infection control and delayed testing of new residents for common infection and unsafe situations where there is “no one on the floor.” A huge concern they say in cases of evacuation or other emergencies.
All those interviewed said they had residents suffering from dementia and almost all (97 per cent) said they had residents in their assignments with cognitive behaviours such as aggression, wandering, and hoarding.
For more information and to download a pdf of the Long-Term Care in Ontario: Fostering Systemic Neglect study, please go to: http://www.ochu.on.ca/events.php
For more information please contact:
Stella Yeadon, Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Communications, 416-559-9300