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WINNIPEG – Across Canada, residential long-term care is at a crisis point and as the population ages, pressure on the system will only get worse.

This is the message the Canadian Union of Public Employees hopes to bring to communities with its national long-term care campaign which is making stops across the country.

Constant underfunding, poor staffing and privatization have deteriorated our residential long-term care system,” CUPE Manitoba Health Care Coordinator Nicole Campbell told a crowd of health care workers and members of the public at the Victoria Inn today.

As a result, seniors are faced with a two-tiered system where public funding, eligibility, costs and quality vary dramatically from province-to-province.  To put it simply, our elders are not getting the care they need.”

Guest speaker Dr. Pat Armstrong is a sociology professor at York University.  She has co-authored a large number of articles and books on health policy with considerable focus on long-term care.  Dr. Armstrong’s research has shown chronic understaffing in Canada’s long-term care facilities, resulting in work environments that are often unhealthy and unsafe for staff and seniors.

The workers we interviewed reported being rushed, extremely stressed, and having to run around like chickens with their heads cut off.  When we asked workers how often they had too much work to do, sixty per cent said that there was almost always too much work,” explained Armstrong.

It’s very straight forward, the conditions of work are also the conditions of care.  Too many workers are left alone to care for residents during shifts.  The level of violence against workers is shockingly high and too often, staff are feeling demoralized and beaten down.”

Dr. Armstrong urged increased federal funding for staffing, better national standards, and more education and training for staff as first steps toward fixing Canada’s residential long-term care system.

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