Health care advocates worried about care home staffing
KITCHENER -- Health care advocates are concerned about staffing levels at the province's long-term care homes.
Some said Ontario's promise to improve hours of direct care in homes needs to happen now, rather than following the government's timeline of 2024.
Tracy Rowley's mother, Shirley Egerdeen, died from COVID-19 in April while living at Forest Heights Revera. Rowley said the province's promise to improve care in the next four years does little for the current crisis facing long-term care homes.
"We're talking four years from now," she said. "How many lives have to go in those four years?"
Daily direct patient care in long-term care homes currently averages about two hours and 45 minutes. Ontario plans to increase that to four hours by 2024.
The Ontario Health Coalition said that amount of time is likely even less right now, with staffing levels worse now than they were a few months ago.
Natalie Mehra with the group said there are nearly 100 outbreaks in long-term care homes and more than a third of them have more than 10 cases.
"I've never seen anything so bad," Mehra said. "It's worse than the first wave, because staff left and got sick and so on in the first wave. The homes have lost a lot of staff, so it really is devastating."
Veronique Boscart, the head of Conestoga College's Health Sciences program, agrees. She also works as a nurse at a local home.
"Staff are overworked, families are broken," she said. "We now have to wait another four years for us to have sufficient staffing. That's hard."
Boscart also said that Conestoga College is one of the few places in Ontario that offers a variety of long-term care training for nurses and personal service workers, including a fast-track program that can train a PSW in five months. Their normal program is eight months.
She said they need more help from the province.
"All of that is in place, we just need to have the government funding to just push it out," Boscart said.
Rowley said she believes the government would move more quickly if they spoke directly to impacted families.
"People who have experienced this stuff and get our input," she said.
There are two active long-term care outbreaks in Waterloo Region -- one at St. Andrew's Terrace LTC and one at Columbia Forest's Breithaupt Unit. Each have a staff member who has tested positive for COVID-19.