Union, workers sounding alarm on long-term care
CUPE: Seniors are being short-changed staffing, hours of care
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.”
From left: Lorena Salve, PSW; Jean Kirby, RPN; Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions.