RN care needed to keep residents safe, healthier
KITCHENER, ON, Jan. 13, 2014 /CNW/ - The Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) today called on the provincial government to fund a minimum staffing standard in long-term care to keep residents safer and healthier in long-term care facilities.
In a presentation to the Standing Committee on Finance & Economic Affairs, Beverly Mathers, RN, a Labour Relations Manager with ONA, cited research that shows the direct link between nurse staffing levels and resident safety and health outcomes.
"It's a shocking little secret that Ontario has the second-lowest RN to population ratio, with just seven RNs per 1,000 Ontarians," notes ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud, RN. "We know that almost 93 per cent of long-term care residents suffer from two or more chronic illnesses, and 83 per cent have high or very high care needs. Yet reforms have failed to include key factors in keeping residents safer and healthier: mandated staffing levels and care standards.
"An Ontario long-term care RN can find herself in a situation where they are responsible for coordinating care plans for up to 300 residents. It's an unsafe and untenable situation and our frail, elderly residents deserve far better."
ONA is calling for funding in the 2014 provincial budget for a minimum staffing standard of four worked hours of nursing and personal care per resident per day, including .78 hours of RN care. This would have a direct and dramatic impact on the quality of care and the safety of our most vulnerable and frail citizens.
Haslam-Stroud says that long-term care residents also increasingly suffer from cognitive issues, including dementia and mental health issues, "which are challenging to chronically understaffed long-term care facilities. This has led to unnecessary incidents of violence that have left some residents injured and others dead. The fix is to hire more registered nurses who can evaluate residents and plan their care."
While there have been reviews and recommendations made for Ontario's long-term care sector, few have been implemented. RN staffing levels have been dropping in recent years. Locally, the number of full-time RN positions has been declining. There are fewer full-time RNs working in the province than in 2011; to fill the gap, the province needs to hire 17,500 more RNs.
ONA is the union representing 60,000 registered nurses and allied health professionals, as well as more than 14,000 nursing student affiliates providing care in hospitals, long-term care facilities, public health, the community, clinics and industry.
SOURCE: Ontario Nurses' Association