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Ontario LTC commission: Hire more nursing home staff ASAP — no further study needed

Commission also recommends daily care standard of four hours per person

Ontario's Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission has called for hiring more front-line care staff, enough to provide a minimum daily average of four hours of direct care per patient per day.

Along with that, the commission is pushing for the creation of a comprehensive human resources strategy to address the full range of staffing issues in Ontario's nursing homes. 

It said no further study is required. It said timely implementation should be carried out now. 

The Commission released five recommendations Friday as part of its first interim report to the Ontario government since it began holding hearings on long-term care (LTC) back in the first week of September. Those recommendations were as follows:

1. In addition to increasing the supply of PSWs, ensure that LTC staff recruitment efforts address the requirement for an appropriate staff mix to meet the increasing acuity and complex care needs of residents.

2. While all witnesses agreed on the need for staffing flexibility given the 24/7 nature of homes’ operations, more full-time positions must be created to ensure staffing stability and retention, and resident continuity of care.

3. Beyond these initial steps, identify the permanent investments required to develop and implement a comprehensive human resources strategy that addresses the full range of staffing issues in the sector. The ministry’s Long-Term Care Staffing Study, released in July 2020, identifies the best path forward. Further “study” of the aforementioned study is not necessary. What is required is the study’s timely implementation.

4. Consistent with that study, the Commission recommends a minimum daily average of four hours of direct care per resident. The government needs to increase permanent funding for more nurses and support staff, to enable homes to increase their staff to resident ratio, and provide more hours of care, based on residents’ needs.

5. Given the essential role of families and caregivers in supporting not just physical care needs but the psycho-social well-being of residents, the commission reinforced the calls from residents, families and caregivers to ensure that families and caregivers have ongoing, safe and managed access to long term care residents.

In response to the report the Ontario Health Coalition, a private sector lobby group, said it supports the recommendations and urges the Doug Ford Conservative government to take immediate action by increasing the hiring of PSWs (personal support workers) and other front line medical workers -- nurses included -- to meet the complex care needs of residents.

The OHC said the recommendations also validate its own long-standing call for the minimum of four hours of daily direct care for each LTC patient.

Other reaction came from Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Ontario's official opposition leader, 

Horwath is calling on Doug Ford to remove Merrilee Fullerton from cabinet for her repeated failure to keep seniors safe in her post as Minister of Long-Term Care.

“We have heard that long-term care (LTC) homes were forgotten in the initial provincial plans to control the spread of COVID-19 until residents started dying...”, said an NDP news release. 

“People in long-term care are once again losing their lives amid the second wave of COVID-19, and there’s just too much at stake for Mr. Ford to keep giving the minister chances, when she keeps leaving seniors unprotected,” said Horwath

“We now know that the government ignored long-term care in its planning and response to the first wave, and I’m deeply concerned that Mr. Ford and his long-term care minister are doing the same thing all over again.”

Horwath's release said more than 1,900 LTC residents in Ontario have already died, and 82 long-term care homes had a COVID-19 outbreak as of Sunday.


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Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

About the Author: Len Gillis, local journalism initiative reporter

Len Gillis is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter at covering health care in northeastern Ontario and the COVID-19 pandemic.
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