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“Are our seniors safe in private and public residences and long-term care facilities?”

This was the burning question addressed by health care workers and researchers at the conference of the Conseil provincial des affaires sociales (CPAS). Unfortunately, the answer was clear: under-funding, staffing shortages and turnover, and mismanagement are continuing to increase the vulnerability of the elderly in residences and centres.

Louis Plamondon, lawyer, sociologist and president of the French Internet Network “Vieillir en liberté,” did not pull any punches, referring to the “systemic neglect and abandonment” experienced by seniors. As an example, he noted that 30 to 60 per cent of the elderly in long-term residential care suffer from malnutrition, as revealed in an exposé on the April 7 edition of the program Lépicerie. According to Plamondon, the deficiencies in some institutions present a risk to residents that is equivalent to “asking a blind man to run down a flight of stairs.”

He was followed by Ghislaine Tremblay and Sophie Marchildon, service quality and complaints commissioners at the Agence de santé et services sociaux de Montréal and the CSSS Vaudreuil-Soulanges et Haut-Richelieu, respectively, who discussed how to use complaints and investigations mechanisms to find solutions. They encouraged frontline workers to become aware of these resources and to turn to them whenever a situation is considered unacceptable.

Chairperson Gaétan Cousineau spoke about the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse du Québec. Among those attending was Lisette Lapointe, MP for Crémazie and official opposition spokesperson on the elderly.

All speakers acknowledged the vital role of health care workers in reporting abuses and problems. They also supported some of the recommendations in CUPE’s research report, “Residential long-term care in Canada: our vision for better seniors’ care”.

To address the crisis in long-term care, CUPE is calling on governments to:

  • Increase staffing, with legislated quality of care standards
  • Support education and professional development
  • Improve accountability and enforcement
  • Expand home and community care services

The conference was part of CUPE’s cross-Canada tour on issues affecting the quality of residential services for seniors.


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