THOROLD — Hundreds of bright blue balloons surrounded the bandshell at the Battle of Beaverdams Park in Thorold on Saturday as the Canadian Union of Public Employees held a rally to back calls for legislated standard of care in Ontario nursing homes.
CUPE used the event to publicize its ‘Time to Care’ campaign, pressuring the province to deliver on a promise that CUPE said was made back in 2003 to legislate a minimum daily care standard for Ontario’s 80,000 long-term care residents.
Since 1992, the complexity of care needs of Ontario’s long-term care residents — the majority of whom are now 85 years of age or older — has increased significantly, said CUPE.
Heather Duff, CUPE’s chair of its health care workers coordinating committee, said
73 per cent of residents now have some form of dementia, and most need help with feeding, bathing, toileting and getting out of bed. The union is demanding changes to the Long-Term Care Act for a legislated care of a minimum of four hours per resident per day, adjusted for case mix and acuity level.
The union also wants public funding for homes tied to the provision of quality care and staffing levels, and for public reporting of staffing levels to be mandatory.
Last year, CUPE Ontario secretary-treasurer Candace Rennick said staff in nursing homes are now running from resident to resident, with the situation getting worse.
Duff said home workers would love the luxury of simply having a few moments to chat with residents about the weather or current events, but the Time for Care campaign is about giving basic care for residents, she said.
“They’re people and this is their home,” she said. “You want to be able to treat them like family.”
“It’s certainly not a lack of commitment by staff: they’re coming in early, skipping breaks and staying late,” said Duff. “(But) they just don’t have time,” she said, noting residents can wait for three to four hours to be taken to a toilet when there may be only one registered nurse and two personal support workers to handle 40 or 50 residents on a ward.
“Our seniors deserve care,” said Duff. “They’re our parents and our grandparents.”
CUPE said it’s been more than 10 years since an inquest into the deaths of two long-term care residents in 2001. The jury came back with 85 recommendations, which health care staff say were never implemented by the province.
Duff said her union hopes people will contact their MPPs to urge them to have the province take action on the issue.