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Elderly and frail residents of Ontario’s long-term care facilities are facing increasingly intolerable living conditions because Ontario’s Health Minister has failed to establish staffing and care standards for nursing homes despite repeated promises, says Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario President Sid Ryan.

When incontinence products are being rationed and when residents wait hours for a meal because caregivers are so short-staffed and run off their feet, the responsibility for these shameful conditions lies squarely with Health Minister George Smitherman who has dragged his heels on this issue,” says Ryan. 

One year ago, the Health Minister promised to implement a staffing and care standard. The premier made the same promise in the 2003 and 2007 elections. When is this government ever going to give our most vulnerable citizens the dignity and respect that they deserve?”

The Minister made the promise during consultations regarding Bill 140, the Long-Term Care Act, which was passed last spring. Now, one year later, the government is running yet another consultation led by Shirley Sharkey and there is no indication that a minimum standard of care is being considered in this process, according to Ryan.

One year ago, CUPE Ontario and the Ontario Health Coalition pressed Smitherman to establish an average of three-and-a-half hours of care per day per resident. That is the standard that Alberta, New Brunswick and Manitoba are striving to achieve.

The time for talk is over. Study after study has linked staffing and care standards to improved care and safety,” says Ryan, adding that 37 U.S. states have established minimum staffing standards either in statute or regulation.

CUPE Ontario’s surveys among its caregiver members have continued to reveal a deeply disturbing lack of care because there is simply not enough staffing and the legal requirement to ensure nursing homes deliver the care that is required by residents. Over 86% of front line caregivers have worked short-handed anywhere from once to 20 times a month when caring for nursing home residents. Fifteen per cent say they have not been able to meet all resident care needs each day because of understaffing.

On Valentines Day, long-term care workers will hold information pickets at local MPP offices and nursing homes in cities across the province. “It’s time for Minister Smitherman to show he really cares and implement a 3.5 hour average standard of care for our loved ones,” says Ryan.

For more information, contact:

Valerie Dugale              CUPE Communications        647-225-3685
Sid Ryan                      CUPE Ontario President       416-209-0066