91% of seniors’ facilities below staffing guideline, report says
The number of senior-care facilities in B.C. that don’t meet Ministry of Health staffing guidelines has increased by 10 per cent over the last year, despite a governmentordered review.
The newly updated Residential Care Facilities Quick Facts Directory, a report that compiles information for all publicly funded seniors’ facilities in B.C. for 2015- 16, has found that a whopping 91 per cent of care homes — 254 out of 280 facilities — failed to meet the Ministry of Health’s staffing guideline of 3.36 hours of care per senior every day. The George Pearson Centre in Vancouver’s Marpole neighbourhood had the highest number of direct-care hours per patient per day, at 5.72, followed by the Houston Health Centre in northern B.C. (5.53) and CareLife Fleetwood in Surrey (4.18).
The West Vancouver Care Centre ranked lowest by this measure, at 2.31, followed by the Fort Nelson Multi Level Unit at 2.33 and Waverly-Grosvenor House in Chilliwack (2.52).
Twelve facilities weren’t included in this year’s directory due to a lack of information.
Last year, 231 facilities — about 80 percent—didn’ t meet the recommended minimum of care hours for work, which includes helping seniors with tasks such as eating, bathing or going to the toilet.
“We are disappointed in the care hours. We went in the wrong direction ,” said Isobel Mackenzie, seniors advocate for B.C. “We had hoped the attention focused on it (last year) meant the health authorities might ensure more funding, but we have moved a bit backwards.”
A lack of adequate staffing hours at care homes can have serious consequences on seniors’ health and quality of life and could lead to increases in depression, agitation, and infection and hospitalization rates, Mackenzie said.
“There are significant deleterious effects on the body that can occur if we don’t have the proper level of support,” she said.
Of the 26 facilities that met the standard, all but three were run by health authorities.
Last year’s findings prompted Health Minister Terry Lake to ask for a review on how health authorities fund seniors’ homes. The review is still pending and the ministry didn’t provide a timeline for its completion.
The seniors advocate’s report showed improvements on other fronts. According to the data, the number of reportable incidents per 100 beds decreased by 7.4 per cent over the previous year. Reportable incidents include cases of abuse or neglect, medication error with an adverse event, missing or wandering seniors, and resident-to-resident aggression.
The use of antipsychotic medication for seniors who don’t have a diagnosis for that condition also decreased from 31 per cent to 27 per cent. The drugs are sometimes used to manage seniors who have sudden outbursts of agitation, anxiety or aggression.
Jennifer Whiteside of the Hospital Employees Union, which represents care aides, said there is a staffing crisis in senior care, fuelled by underfunding and excessive privatization over the last decade. The union is calling on the province to legislate minimum staffing levels and inject funds to enable facilities to meet those levels.
“Clearly, guidelines aren’t working if 90 per cent of facilities aren’t providing the minimum standard,” Whiteside said. “There are not enough hands on deck to ensure seniors are getting the care they need. Workers are stretched to the limit, seniors are left waiting and families worry whether their loved ones get the care they need.”
NDP critic Selina Robinson also slammed the government’s failure to act on last year’s findings.
“Here we are a year later and things aren’t working for seniors,” Robinson said. “Those are our grandparents and our parents … They’ve become tasks to be taken care of rather than people because there’s not enough time in the system and there’s not enough resources.”
In a statement, Darryl Plecas, parliamentary secretary for seniors, said B.C. has increased its spending on home and community care from about $1.3 billion in 2001 to $2.9 billion last year.
“The standard we are most focused on is having care-providers deliver high-quality care at whatever level is most appropriate for an individual resident.”
Mackenzie, who wants staffing levels at senior-care facilities to be regulated similar to child-care centres, said fixing the problem will require more funding.
“There’s no way around it,” she said. “Fixing direct-care hours is going to cost money. It’s about having the bodies there, and the bodies have to be paid.”