The Canadian Union of Public Employees is backing a private member's bill introduced by Nickel Belt MPP France Gelinas that would mandate a minimum four hours of hands-on care for residents in long-term care homes.
Gelinas introduced, Bill 33, the Time to Care Act, in October and it passed first reading.
Hundreds of CUPE members are employed in long-term care homes, where most residents are 80 years of age or older and have multiple, complex health problems.
Gelinas, the New Democrats' Health and Long-Term Care critic, introduced the bill in the last session of the Legislature, but it died on the order paper when Premier Kathleen Wynne prorogued the Legislature.
It's been difficult getting people to pay attention to the need for more long-term care hours, said Gelinas. "The only time it is in the news is when something goes drastically wrong."
It's clear to anyone who has a loved one in long-term care that "it's not the staff that's not doing a good job. It's just there's not enough of them to meet the needs of residents," said the MPP, a physiotherapist and former executive director of a community health centre.
The needs of those residents have increased "exponentially," said Gelinas. "Yet the resources to care for them have barely moved."
She called the shortage of staff in long-term care a recipe for disaster. "And everything shows us it's a recipe for disaster."
In the last three years, there have been 25 homicides in long-term care homes. About 77,000 Ontarians live in long-term care.
"Name me a town of 77,000 people where you would have 25 homicides and that wouldn't ring bells," said Gelinas. "If it happened anywhere but long-term care, tons of resources would be brought in to get to the bottom of it, to make sure people are safe, but none of that is happening for our loved ones."
Because long-term care homes don't have to report the hours of care they provide to residents, "we don't even know where we're at," said Gelinas.
Some of the 650 residences in the province, the majority of them privately owned, share those figures "just because they're behind the campaign."
Anyone with a loved one in care can see staff running and rushing, said Gelinas, and not able to meet the needs of residents.
"This is not acceptable to me and this is not acceptable to any of us who has a loved one" in care, she said.
CUPE officials say there is research that shows the need to increase the hours of care for long-term care residents, and that people with dementia could especially benefit from that increase.