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Heartache over a broken health care system

Posted: October 23, 2017

(October 22, 2017)

By: Jennifer Hamilton-McCharles, The Nugget

The public voices their concerns and shares their stories during a provincial tour

Heartache over a broken health care system

The golden years for many seniors are anything but golden.

Little community support and few services at a reasonable cost. Understaffed long-term care homes, with nurses who have patient-loads of 18 people. Baths that are rushed and personal care that is forgotten.

Those were some of the stories North Bay families shared with the Ontario Health Coalition Saturday at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 23.

Natalie Mehra, executive director of the coalition, is touring the province holding public meetings and collecting real-life stories from people in cities and towns across the province.

She is compiling them into a report that will be presented to the provincial government. The report will also include a list of recommendations.

“We are only eight months from a provincial election,” Mehra said.

“This is the best opportunity to make policy changes. This is the time when parties really have to listen to the people, because from what we see there’s no end in sight to what is happening to our health care right now.”

For more than two hours, families expressed their frustrations and heartache over a “broken” health care system that has forgotten the elderly and vulnerable.

Jim Thomas was at the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 23 when he was approached by the wife of a 91-year-old Canadian veteran.

He said she was very upset that her husband was shipped to a long-term care home in Mattawa.

“This man’s wife is 88 years old and she had no way to visit him,” Thomas said. “They have been married for more than 60 years and he’s been taken away from her. “

Thomas said the home is predominately French speaking and the war veteran couldn’t understand a lot of what was happening.

“He thought he was in prison from World War Two,” he said.

“We managed to relocate him to Cassellholme Home for the Aged, but hospitals are just shipping seniors out wherever there is a space no matter the repercussions.”

Mehra said there is enormous pressure to clear hospital beds to allow more people in.

“There is a lot of space in our provincial hospitals where hospital beds used to be,” she added.

Anne McIntyre spends a lot of time visiting her 70-year-old husband who is living in a long-term care home. He has severe multiple sclerosis.

“There’s a lot of gaps in the system,” she said. “One Personal Support Worker will have 10 to 13 residents under his or her care and each resident receives between eight to 10 minutes of personal care.”

McIntyre said residents are woken up early, their teeth are quickly cleaned, they get dressed and if they resist then some items are missed because there is just no time.

“Residents are waiting long hours to be toileted and staff are burnt out.”

She said meal time is horrendous.

“It’s a factory-like feeding system.”

Blanche-Helen Tremblay’s mother is 89. She has advanced stage dementia.

“My mom has been in a long-term care home for six years and my father was in hospital for three years. We applied to four different long-term care homes, but we were refused by all of them because of his behaviour.”

Tremblay visits her mother nine hours per day seven days a week.

“If you put a family member into a long-term care facility and you don’t go, they don’t get the care they deserve. The time for care just isn’t there.”

She said instead the focus is on getting things done quickly and inexpensively.

“I’ve seen residents still chewing their food and their plate is taken away or they don’t answer quick enough and the decision is made for them.”

Tremblay said spending 63 hours per week at the long-term care home she hears and sees a lot.

She said part of the problem is the need for more full-time workers so staff doesn’t have to worry about picking up a second job.

“Everyone is always working short-staffed.”

Scott Tod said he would like to see a greater openness around performance measures, such as what homes are performing well and which ones aren’t.

He said there’s a lack of openness when it comes to data.

“What are the ratios of PSWs to patients, rates of infection and diseases treated, reported number of falls and doctor care.”

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