A new report from the Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) depicts disturbing conditions for residents and staff in Ontario’s long-term care homes.
Situation Critical; Planning, Access, Levels of Care, and Violence in Ontario’s Long-Term Care was compiled using statistics, including those from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
Presentations discussing the report have been held in communities across the province involving unions representing workers in long-term care homes. On February 1, the report was presented in Hawkesbury by Richard Leblanc, Eastern Ontario Area Coordinator for the United Steelworkers union (USW). He was joined by Kathleen Brooks, President of UNIFOR Local 8300, and Audra Nixon of the USW, both of whom represent health care workers in the region.
Leblanc, using speaking notes provided by the OHC, said the organization has heard daily complaints from family of long-term care facility residents about injuries and has received photos of people covered with bruises due to abuse from other residents.
The report states there is a significant shortage of personnel in the facilities, especially personal support workers (PSW). They are the people responsible for the feeding and hygiene needs of residents.
“Levels of care are too low to meet basic safety requirements,” said Leblanc.
According to the report, there were 27 resident-on-resident homicides in long-term care facilities across Ontario in the past five years. There are 80,000 people living in these facilities throughout the province. If that population is considered as its own city, the long-term care population has a homicide rate eight times higher than Toronto’s.
Brooks, who has worked as a PSW for 18 years, said each resident is supposed to receive an individual four hours of care per day, but achieving that is difficult due to facilities being under-staffed. The report states the average is 2.7 hours. Many PSW’s call in sick due to burnout and facility management do not always call substitutes, and there is a shortage of PSW’s to fill the positions.
Brooks said the day at many homes begins at 7am, and PSW’s are responsible for waking residents up, ensuring they are properly dressed, cleaned, and fed. The amount of time to complete the morning tasks before breakfast is a challenge if residents require special lifting assistance or incontinence products.
“Long-term care facilities are the chronic care and psycho-geriatric hospitals of decades past,” said Brooks.
During the 1990s, the Ontario government shifted most of the responsibility for chronic-care patients and for people with dementia away from hospitals to long-term care institutions.
According to the report, the percentage of residents with dementia has increased from 77 per cent in 2012-2013 to 82 per cent in 2016-2017. Nearly half of long-term care residents also exhibit some form of aggressive behaviour and half of that segment exhibits severe to very severe aggression.
The OHC report states that Ontario has the second lowest amount of beds per 1,000 population of any province. Newfoundland is the lowest. Wait times for long-term care beds have steadily increased over the past three years from an average of 91 days in 2015 to 160 days in 2018.
The report is also critical of for-profit long-term care facilities and prefers not-for-profit because they tend to re-invest their revenue into care and the physical facility. Nearly 58 per cent of Ontario’s long-term care facilities are for profit.
Leblanc, Brooks, and Nixon each said they are aware of for-profit homes where adult diapers are kept locked away, so staff are changing the patients less and keeping costs to the company at a minimum.
There is also concern that Premier Doug Ford’s plan to expand long-term care services in Ontario will result in privatization. Recently, information from the government was leaked to the NDP opposition and media stating the PC government is planning to eliminate the LHIN network and replace it with a single health authority. Critics have argued that the government is planning to privatize health care.