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Long-term care facilities are places where our loved ones live, dependent for their well-being and care on front-line health care workers like us, members of CUPE 2280, at Marycrest Home for the Aged and Anson House. This is a responsibility that we embrace with our hearts and minds, which is why we fight to create and maintain the conditions necessary to ensure adequate care for each and every resident. We demand the financial and managerial accountability of nursing home administrators who make the decisions regarding staffing levels and what services will be added or cut. The best way to guarantee acceptable levels of care in facilities across the province is for the Ontario government to introduce minimum standards for long-term care that are monitored and provide adequate funding to make this a reality. This is our central demand.

Years of cutbacks, little or no accountability and the elimination of minimum standards by the Conservative government in 1996 have eaten away at the fabric of the system. What we see and experience as front-line health-care workers are horrendous workloads, exhausting schedules in addition to an inadequate level of resources available to provide quality care to residents. We are made to feel less like caregivers and more like workers on an assembly line timing our every action for maximum efficiency. But people should not be treated like widgets. Without adequate resources and time with residents, morale drops as it has at Marycrest and Anson House and at countless facilities across Ontario.

It is for these reasons that we, the caregivers who live the reality of this sector everyday, feel an obligation to ensure that residents, family and community members are fully aware of the deteriorating conditions in our long-term facilities. We will continue to fight to ensure the day-to-day accountability of facility administrators and responsibility of government policy makers to address this ever-growing need for quality care.

Through recent media coverage, you may be aware of the challenges we have placed on Marycrest Home for the Aged to maintain and enhance care at a new facility due to open next year called St. Josephs at Fleming. In the transition, management has reduced the proportion of full-time health care aids, shortened hands on care provided to residents each day, reduced the number of baths per week, and expanded the homes administrative staff. As unionized members, we will continue to resist these changes and we will remain constantly vigilant to ensure that care is not reduced and decisions are not made to reallocate funding dollars to initiatives that do not provide a direct benefit to residents we care for.

CUPE Ontario, which represents over 22,000 long-term health care workers in the province, has called for the provincial government to immediately re-introduce minimum standards of care for residents living in long-term care facilities, and a system to monitor those facilities. In a letter to Minister of Health and Long-term care, George Smitherman CUPE Ontario Secretary-Treasurer Brian OKeefe has asked that the new government take immediate steps, including:

  • bringing in a new minimum requirement of 3.5 nursing care hours per resident per day, along with funding to ensure adequate staffing
  • restoring other long-term care standards eliminated by the previous government, such as providing residents with a bath at least once a week
  • soliciting ongoing input into long-term care policies by health care providers, residents, and their families
  • continuing to increase the number of available long term care beds

In addition to these standards, the government needs to ensure that service providers are held 100% accountable for how they spend money and how they provide care to residents. Ultimately it is the responsibility of the governments to properly fund long-term care, however, it remains a local concern when issues of how to spend the available dollars on resident care in our community are debated.

Candace Rennick CUPE 2280, President