Seniors Care Townhall

Many thanks to those who attended my June 20, 2017 Seniors Care Townhall, or participated in the Long-Term Care Roundtable with Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath and MPP Teresa Armstrong on July 5, 2017. 
 
Your input echoed what New Democrats have been hearing across the province, which is why the Ontario NDP is calling for a broad, two-part inquiry into the crisis in our long-term care system. The inquiry would not only look into the circumstances of the Wettlaufer murders (as the Liberals have proposed), but would also include an investigation into staffing levels, funding and safety conditions in care homes across the province. If the Liberals refuse to do the right thing and investigate the broader, systemic problems in long-term care, a New Democrat government would expand the inquiry immediately after the election.  
People have told us heart-breaking stories about long-term care residents being left in bed for 18 hours, and seniors not getting the basic help they need to bathe, change their clothes or get to the bathroom on time.  Seniors in this province – our parents and grandparents – deserve care that protects their safety, health and their dignity. It’s time to get to the bottom of these problems, and do something about it.

If you would like to join the NDP’s call for a full public inquiry into the state of long-term care in Ontario, or share your own experience, please go to http://act.ontariondp.ca/share-your-story.  
For those who were not able to attend the Seniors Care Townhall or the Long-Term Care Roundtable, I have prepared a summary of the issues that were raised. The comments can be grouped into four broad themes:
 
VULNERABLE SENIORS ARE BEING HURT THE MOST
  • Shortage of long-term care staff means a significant reduction in the time available for staff to care per resident
  • No opportunities for PSWs to spend meaningful time with long-term care residents, or with seniors during homecare visits
  • Increasing concerns about overmedication of seniors in long-term care facilities, and over-use of antipsychotics, as a means of dealing with difficult behaviours
  • Frequent staff turnover means inconsistency of staff and lack of continuity of care
  • Shortage of long-term care beds forces seniors waiting in hospital to take any available bed, regardless of their preferred location
  • Residents’ Bill of Rights is important, but many seniors do not have families to advocate for them
  • Seniors who are experiencing elder abuse are often afraid to raise concerns
  • Physiotherapy cuts have reduced seniors’ ability to maintain independence
  • Homecare services are being cut by CCAC, and there is insufficient aftercare and discharge planning for seniors after surgery
STRESS ON STAFF IS INCREASING
  • There is an urgent need for more staff, currently 3 PSWs are caring for 31 residents
  • Higher acuity of residents increases pressures on staff because of mobility needs, feeding needs, more aggressive behaviours
  • Better training is needed for staff to deal with complex needs, dementia, Alzheimer’s
  • Staff stress and burnout is a significant problem
  • Many long-term care facilities are shifting to more part-time staff, which makes recruitment more difficult, and results in less continuity of care for residents
  • Proper screening of staff is important but the huge demand for PSWs means that some PSWs are hired who may not be the best “fit”
  • There should be a greater focus on self-care for PSWs and RPNs in college curriculum
  • More RNs in long-term care homes could help address some of the pressures on PSWs
  • More regulated staff in long-term care homes could improve oversight and accountability
 
FAMILIES ARE CARRYING MORE OF THE BURDEN
  • The burden on caregivers is increasing, but there is almost no financial support and limited access to respite care
  • Costs of long-term care are often supplemented by families who pay out-of-pocket for additional support
GOVERNMENT IS FAILING TO ACT
  • Problems in long-term care are systemic, they require major political commitment to change and improve the system
  • The long-term care inspection process is inadequate, inspections should be random rather than scheduled
  • Inspection reports are not followed up, coroner recommendations are not implemented
  • Flawed funding model is based on two-year old data
  • Behaviours/complexity of needs are not taken into account in determining funding levels
Two specific questions were asked at the Seniors' Care Townhall, and the answers are provided below: 
  1. What are the amounts spent by the government on long-term care vs home care, and what is the total health care budget?
In 2015-2016, the total health care budget was $50.8 billion. Of this, $3.97 billion was spent on long-term care, which represents 7.8% of the health care budget, and $2.5 billion was spent on all home care (not just home care for seniors), which represents 4.9% of the health care budget. 
  1. What are the plans for the now-closed Regional Mental Health Centre on Sunset Drive in St. Thomas?
I was told that no decision has yet been made regarding this site. The government, through Infrastructure Ontario (IO), is in the process of undertaking the necessary due diligence, including preparation for future activities which may include archeological and heritage studies. Once that process is complete, IO will determine the level of interest from other governments and non-profit groups.

Finally, you may be aware of the proposed transfer of 46 long-term care beds out of Meadow Park Care Centre in London to Southampton and Chatham, which was announced earlier this week. At a time when there are 33 people on the Meadow Park wait list and an average wait time of 293 days, my colleague MPP Teresa Armstrong issued a statement asking why beds are being taken out of London instead of being added. She repeated the call for a public inquiry into seniors care homes, to shine a light on the problems and take action to fix them.  

I hope this information is useful to you. As always, I welcome your feedback and suggestions!

Sincerely,

Peggy Sattler, MPP
London West