Masse Joins Protest for Better Ontario Senior Care

IDNUMBER 200808130004
PUBLICATION: The Windsor Star
DATE: 2008.08.13
EDITION: Final
SECTION: News
PAGE: A1 / FRONT
DATELINE: KINGSVILLE
BYLINE: Sonja Puzic
SOURCE: Windsor Star
WORD COUNT: 621

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Nurses protest senior care

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KINGSVILLE - Royal Oak Long Term Care Centre staff held up picket signs and adult diapers in front of the seniors' home Tuesday, calling on the Ontario government to address staff shortages and improve standards of care in long-term care facilities.

A group of Royal Oak employees marched in front of the 160-bed facility on Division Road, waving signs that read "We're tired of working short" and "More $$$ for our residents" as passing motorists honked and cheered.

One staff member filled an adult diaper with water until it was heavy to demonstrate what incontinent nursing home residents must put up with every day -- sometimes for hours --before they are changed and cleaned up.

"It's really pathetic that this is what we've come to," said MP Brian Masse (NDP -- Windsor West), who joined the picketers in the morning to show his support.

"We want our government to step up and provide more funding," said Marlise Begin, a registered practical nurse who has worked at Royal Oak for the past four years.

"We have a high burnout rate among our staff and our residents suffer as a result."

Begin and other picketers said their protest wasn't an attack on Royal Oak, but a way to draw attention to issues facing nursing home staff and residents across the province.

Kim Boyle, a business agent for the Ontario Federation of Health Care Workers, said Royal Oak employees often work through their lunches and breaks to try to keep up with the workload. When a staff member is sick or away, the situation only gets worse, she said.

Often, nursing home residents' basic hygiene needs are compromised due to staff shortages and lack of funds, Begin said. She said residents who are incontinent don't get a diaper change until it is 80 per cent saturated with urine. Many urinary tract infections among elderly female residents are related to spending hours in urine-soaked diapers, Begin said. The residents' other basic needs are also affected by understaffing and overworked staff, she said.

For Thomas Majoros, an 83-year-old Royal Oak resident, continuity of care is a big concern.

"When you have one person taking care of you, instead of (staff) rotating, it makes a big difference," he said. "They know what you need and what you're like. The care is good here but they just don't have enough staff."

Another Royal Oak resident, 79-year-old Angus Vetor, said the ministry should mandate a minimum of 31/2 hours of daily care for each nursing home resident.

"So many people here are bedridden. Tom and I are among the privileged because we can get out," Vetor said. "We need the money from the provincial government. It's high time they do something. It's getting serious. We have a beautiful home but not enough staff ... Last Sunday, I didn't get a bath, even though it was my bath day."

Phil McKenzie of Chartwell Seniors Housing REIT, which runs Royal Oak, said Tuesday the company "wholeheartedly" agrees with the union's message.

He said Ontario's long-term care facilities have to work with limited budgets and stretched resources while under pressure to satisfy the ministry's long list of compliance requirements, which includes work that doesn't address essential care, such as labelling a resident's toothbrush.

Last month, Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin launched an investigation into how the province monitors and regulates standards in long-term care facilities. He said he will look at how the Ministry of Health deals with complaints in nursing homes and whether its oversight of facilities is adequate to ensure standards of care are being met.

A team of investigators will also review the 400 compliance requirements for long-term care centres in the wake of reports that showed more than 60 per cent of Ontario nursing homes have been cited for failing to meet the ministry's standards.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty has acknowledged the province needs to do more to ensure that seniors in long-term care homes are being properly cared for.