'The absence of a staffing standard has already compromised quality care in the drive to maximize profits.'
Toronto (23 March 2009) - The Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU/NUPGE) has withdrawn from a provincial implementation committee intended to develop guidelines for staffing in long-term care homes.
The decision follows the disappointing outcome of a review by Shirley Sharkey, who was appointed by the McGuinty government after the 2007 election to assess minimum care standards for nursing homes in Ontario.
The government had promised to introduce a staffing standard for homes and it had been expected that Sharkey would help define what the standard would be, since she had once been head of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) and an advocate for nursing ratios across the province.
The committee presented Sharkey with a comprehensive human health resources framework for long-term care facilities.
However, in her new role on behalf of the government, Sharkey dismissed the idea of a regulated staffing standard and watered down the concept of established requirements to a series of unclear initiatives that relied more on unenforceable guidelines than regulation.
One of her proposed initiatives was to require each nursing home to form a staffing plan committee that would make recommendations concerning utilization of existing human resources. This committee would include residents, their families, employees, board members and managers. However, its recommendations would be non-binding.
“Without any commitment of resources, this committee will have little real impact on quality care for residents in our nursing homes,” says Patty Rout, OPSEU's first vice-president and treasurer. “Using Sharkey, the McGuinty government is doing little more than providing window-dressing to cover up another broken promise.”
OPSEU is concerned that, with a growing percentage of Ontario nursing home beds being provided by for-profit corporations, the absence of a staffing standard has already compromised quality care in the drive to maximize profits.
Extendicare, one of the major players in Ontario’s nursing home sector, has been fined for neglect of care in the U.S. A Florida jury awarded $20 million in damages against Extendicare in 2000 after a nursing home resident was found to be malnourished, dehydrated and had developed severe pressure sores. Testimony revealed the center operated short staffed and employees didn’t have enough time to provide the everyday tasks the resident needed.
Two other unions, the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW) and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), have also walked away from the implementation committee. They are now determined, along with OPSEU, to resume a campaign demanding 3.5 hours of direct care per resident per day based on average acuity.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE