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Lack of care and oversight in long-term care homes considered “chronic and epidemic”

Posted: April 28, 2017

(October 26, 2016)

By: Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel­ Review

The long­ term care system in Ontario is unable to provide adequate care and oversight to prevent potential horror stories from happening, according to Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition. Mehra said long ­term care facilities in Ontario are so underfunded it is impossible to provide “necessary care and oversights” to residents. Mehra spoke out in reaction to news of the alleged eight murders of long ­term care residents in London and Woodstock over the span of seven years by former registered nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer.

“We all feel for the families; this must be awful for them to go,” she said. Mehra explains there is “a lot of suffering in long ­term care facilities.” “Everywhere I go in Ontario, they will tell you they are short staffed. Even with full staffing, there isn’t enough care,” she said. “Families with money hire an extra caregiver.”

Legislation, she said, requires every staff member to report abuse of neglect, incorporating a zero ­tolerance policy. “It remains to be known how (these alleged murders) happened,” she said. “Lack of staffing is a systemic problem. It’s impossible to provide care and adequate oversight.” There are also strict protocols in place for how pharmaceuticals are handled, as well as who can prescribe and administer drugs. Meds are supposed to be meticulously documented by dosage and frequency. “There is a whole safety regime around administering drugs,” she said. “It’s not clear where she got the dosage and how it was administered without anybody noticing.”

One of the problems, in Ontario she said, is the lack of chronic care beds in hospitals. “In Ontario, our government has cut more hospital beds than anyone in Canada. What used to be chronic care are now long­ term care,” she said. “Long ­term care facilities have heavier cases and higher acuity. Yet staffing levels have never kept place.”

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