Poor care and violence common in Ontario nursing homes

Freedom of information request on behalf of Ontario Health Coalition brings damning report to light


Toronto (13 May 2008) - New figures disclosed through a freedom of information request show that care levels are stagnant in Ontario’s long-term care homes, despite repeated promises by the McGuinty Liberal government to improve care and bring in minimum care standards.

Using interviews, research and government statistics, a report, titled Violence, Insufficient Care and Downloading of Heavy Care Patients: An evaluation of increasing need and inadequate standards in Ontario’s nursing homes reveals that patients with increasingly complex and heavy care needs are being downloaded into long-term care homes, resulting in an increase in violence, accident and injury.

Despite the evidence of significant unmet care needs, the provincial government has delayed regulating the homes to ensure that funding goes to increasing care levels.

(A significant related study on long-term care was published by NUPGE last year. It can be downloaded here: Dignity Denied: Long-Term Care and Canada's Elderly.)

The Ontario Health Coalition has delivered more than 10,000 signatures on petitions calling for a minimum care standard of 3.5 hours of direct hands-on care per day. This standard would be a minimum average tied to measured need. Homes with higher need residents would be required to provide more hours, and homes with lower need residents fewer hours.

Key Findings:

  • Government announcements of increased funding and staff have not resulted in improvements to care levels for residents. According to the government’s own figures, there have been no increase in care levels since 2005, even though resident acuity has increased significantly each year. Care levels remain significantly below recommended thresholds to prevent harm.
  • Care needs of residents have risen dramatically. By 2007, 74% of Ontario’s long-term care residents were classified as the second highest level of acuity, a substantial increase over the last decade. Some 60% to 80% of residents have some form of cognitive impairment. Continued downloading from mental heath facilities and hospitals and aging has resulted in significantly higher care needs.
  • The ministry of health delayed publicly releasing updated care levels data for a year, doing so only after a freedom of information request was filed. The new data shows that care levels actually fell in 2006.
  • Ontario has the second worst long-term care staffing levels in Canada followed only by British Columbia, according to Statistics Canada.
  • Currently, the lowest levels of daily care are provided in the for-profit nursing homes. The highest levels are provided in the publicly-owned and operated municipal homes.
  • Staffing shortages are epidemic. Care workers and nurses report they are working “short staffed” regularly across the province.
  • Violence, accident and injury rates are alarmingly high with almost 90% of workers reporting physical violence.
  • The government has not acted on the recommendations of the coroner’s jury in the Casa Verde Inquest of the homicides of two residents by another resident in a nursing home, nor have they acted on the criticisms of the provincial auditor regarding the lack of accountability and lack of connection between assessed needs and care levels. NUPGE

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