91% of se­niors’ fa­cil­i­ties be­low staffing guide­line, re­port says

Vancouver Sun - - FRONT PAGE - CH­ERYL CHAN AND TARA CAR­MAN

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.”

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