Nicholls and government need to respond to crisis
Posted: February 14, 2020
(February 13, 2020)
By: Shirley Roebuck, writing to the editor of Chatham Daily News
The Chatham Daily News ran an article full of quotes from MPP Rick Nicholls and Rebecca Bozzato (press secretary and senior communications adviser to Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Ontario’s minister of long-term care). They were responding to the Ontario Health Coalition’s report about the PSW crisis in long-term care homes here and across Ontario.
Mr. Nicholls is quoted as saying the following, “Our government is committed to building 15,000 new long-term care beds over the next five years. That’s why we’re investing almost $2 billion to build 15,000 new beds and redevelop another 15,000.” That was Doug Ford’s election promise.
They have had more than 18 months to do it, but so far have opened only 50 of the promised 15,000 beds despite enormous and lengthy wait lists for long-term care.
But the lengthy delays are overshadowed by a fatal problem. There is not enough staff to service the existing beds – never mind 15,000 more. PSWs are leaving the sector because of poor pay, heavy workloads, increasing violence from residents, and long waits for full-time employment. PSWs are suffering from workplace injuries and emotional burnout.
Nicholls’ words were delay tactics and cover for not much being done. He said there needs to be ongoing discussion with sector partners since “they’re the experts”.
The Ontario Health Coalition and Unifor held roundtable discussions across the province, attended by more than 350 long-term care home operators and administrators, PSWs, college PSW program staff, family councils for long-term care homes and advocates. There was an almost total consensus about the crisis and the issues that have caused it.
Why can’t Mr. Nicholls commit to the recommendations we made that would fix the situation?
If he wants to help, he should be lobbying his government to bring in a minimum care standard of four hours of care per resident per day; improve the wages and working conditions for the front-line PSWs – including full-time jobs – who provide much of their vital care, and; set provincial standards for PSW training so that it’s hands-on (like an apprenticeship or co-op approach), less costly or free, and new grads are supported.
Staffing levels are dangerously low. PSWs and other health-care staff are unable to provide vital daily care. Long-term care homes have more resident-on-resident homicides per capita than our country’s largest cities. The accident and injury rate in long-term care is unparalleled in all other sectors of our economy. The situation is urgent.
Only increased staffing ratios and enforceable minimum hours of care per resident per day would help this situation. Why will Nicholls and the minister’s staff not commit to this? Could they be receiving advice and guidance from “experts” who represent owners and profiteers in the long-term care business? The government certainly has not been speaking to public interest groups and advocates who do not have a vested interest.
Answers do not lie with private nursing home owners whose priority is profit. Answers do not lie with consultants or statisticians. Answers can be found in nursing homes where PSWs try to respond to every cry for help.
We believe the government must provide more funding which would be directed at front line care, education to deal with multiple medical conditions and mental health, increased opportunities for full-time jobs, and an enforceable standard of four hours of care per resident per day.
Chair, Chatham-Kent Health Coalition