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Health coalition survey shows severe staff shortages at LTC homes

Posted: July 24, 2020

(July 23, 2020)

By: Allan Benner, The Standard

Niagara Health Coalition president Sue Hotte speaks at a recent rally at Garden City Manor in St. Catharines. The provincial organization released a survey this week showing severe staff shortages at long-term care homes across Ontario.

Long-term care homes in Niagara were well represented in an Ontario Health Coalition survey that determined 95 per cent of the facilities across the province are understaffed, says Sue Hotte, president of the organization’s local chapter.

The results of the provincewide survey were released Wednesday by the health-care watchdog organization, with 95 per cent of respondents reporting inadequate staffing levels that directly impact the care of residents, and 53 per cent said they are contending with staff shortages on a daily basis.

Hotte, Niagara Health Coalition president, said long-term care homes in the region are facing the same challenges, adding about 14 per cent of the more than 150 survey respondents were from the Niagara and Hamilton areas.

“When you look at the numbers, they are all short staffed,” she said, adding Niagara’s municipal and non-profit homes are faring better than privately-run for-profit facilities when it comes to staffing levels.

And the organization is asking the provincial government to make staffing levels at facilities across Ontario a priority, to ensure residents receive the care they need.

Staff shortages became more prevalent for private homes during COVID-19 outbreaks, with 63 per cent of survey respondents reporting that staffing levels became worse when the pandemic hit.

Hotte said municipal and non-profit facilities again were not as negatively impacted by the virus.

Ontario Health Coalition executive director Natalie Mehra said her organization conducted the survey from July 10 to 17, after hearing reports that “staffing levels are worse than ever.”

As a result of the staffing levels, Mehra said residents at many of the homes “are regularly going without bathing and proper washing.”

“Emotional support has been almost nonexistent. Staff have not had time to explain COVID-19 to residents who are confused, they don’t have time to visit with them. This really struck an emotional chord with staff who report that residents are lonely. They miss their families. Residents are sad, depressed and staff have not had time to provide emotional care for them.”

Mehra said there has also been a lack of hygiene care as well as cleaning of residents’ rooms.

She said staffing levels were a crisis before COVID-19, but “the conditions are unspeakable now.”

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