Union, work­ers sound­ing alarm on long-term care

CUPE: Se­niors are be­ing short-changed staffing, hours of care

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - CARMELA FRAGOMENI cfragomeni@thes­pec.com 905-526-3392 | @Car­matTheSpec

A “shame­ful” fund­ing short­age of nurs­ing home staff is lead­ing to res­i­dent vi­o­lence and com­pro­mised care, say front line work­ers and their union.

Nurses, per­sonal sup­port work­ers (PSWs), and the Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees (CUPE) are call­ing for min­i­mum fund­ing for four hours of health care per res­i­dent daily — which means more hir­ing to pro­vide that care. The cur­rent time is 3.1 says the union.

Jean Kirby, a 30-year nurse, ex­plained that “To­day, res­i­dents — who are re­ally more like pa­tients — are older and frailer and have com­plex med­i­cal con­di­tions. They aren’t mo­bile and need more med­i­cal and per­sonal care than ever be­fore.”

The Went­worth Lodge reg­is­tered prac­ti­cal nurse joined CUPE and oth­ers on Mon­day to un­veil its pa­per, “Long-Term Care Un­der­staffing Fewer Hands in Hamil­ton.”

It shows “a brew­ing cri­sis” in which res­i­dents in Hamil­ton’s 17 long-term care fa­cil­i­ties are short­changed 1,172 hours of health care each day com­pared to the Cana­dian av­er­age, mean­ing the city needs another 219 full-time health care work­ers.

St. Joseph’s Villa PSW Heather Neiser said with­out the prov­ince man­dat­ing a min­i­mum care stan­dard, homes just get “a lump sum of money” for fund­ing that isn’t used to hire more front line work­ers. But “all of a sud­den, there’s a new man­age­ment po­si­tion cre­ated.”

Michael Hur­ley, pres­i­dent of CUPE’s On­tario Coun­cil of Hospi­tal Unions, said the union pa­per draws at­ten­tion “to the shame­ful un­der­staffing and the im­pact it has.”

The re­cent vi­o­lent beat­ing of Villa res­i­dent James Acker by another res­i­dent, and Acker’s sub­se­quent death, was un­for­tu­nately one of many such sit­u­a­tions, he said.

The only thing to do to pre­vent such in­ci­dents — and en­sure enough staff to in­ter­vene in an at­tack by some­one with se­ri­ous psy­cho­log­i­cal is­sues — is to pro­vide the same staffing lev­els as psy­chi­atric fa­cil­i­ties or hospi­tals with psych units, he said.

But Lor­raine Pur­don, di­rec­tor of the Fam­ily Coun­cils of On­tario says “the is­sues are far greater and more com­plex than just try­ing to in­crease hours.”

Peo­ple, from PSWs to doc­tors, don’t want to work in long-term care fa­cil­i­ties, she says. Some homes have a very dif­fi­cult time find­ing peo­ple to work there, she says, blam­ing re­sources.

“We need to fig­ure out the best way to fund it (long-term care).”

Health Min­istry spokesper­son David Jansen pointed out the prov­ince has al­most dou­bled its longterm care fund­ing — to $4.14 bil­lion this year from $2.1 bil­lion in 2004.

Another $58 mil­lion (a two per cent in­crease) is for fund­ing care for res­i­dents with com­plex care needs, plus another $10 mil­lion is be­ing given to the be­havioural sup­ports pro­gram for those with Alzheimer’s and other cog­ni­tive is­sues, he said. He added that all care staff must re­ceive an­nual train­ing “in be­hav­iour man­age­ment, men­tal health is­sues, and abuse recognition and pre­ven­tion.”

Hur­ley main­tains, “We’re talk­ing of get­ting to a point where there is suf­fi­cient staff to in­ter­vene.”

CARMELA FRAGOMENI, THE HAMIL­TON SPEC­TA­TOR

From left: Lorena Salve, PSW; Jean Kirby, RPN; Michael Hur­ley, pres­i­dent of CUPE’s On­tario Coun­cil of Hospi­tal Unions.

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