Time for Health Minister to care for elderly, frail; Living conditions in nursing homes grow intolerable

    TORONTO, Feb. 13 /CNW Telbec/ - Elderly and frail residents of Ontario's
long-term care facilities are facing increasingly intolerable living
conditions because Ontario's Health Minister has failed to establish staffing
and care standards for nursing homes despite repeated promises, says Canadian
Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario President Sid Ryan.
    "When incontinence products are being rationed and when residents wait
hours for a meal because caregivers are so short-staffed and run off their
feet, the responsibility for these shameful conditions lies squarely with
Health Minister George Smitherman who has dragged his heels on this issue,"
says Ryan.
    "One year ago, the Health Minister promised to implement a staffing and
care standard. The premier made the same promise in the 2003 and 2007
elections. When is this government ever going to give our most vulnerable
citizens the dignity and respect that they deserve?"
    The Minister made the promise during consultations regarding Bill 140,
the Long-Term Care Act, which was passed last spring. Now, one year later, the
government is running yet another consultation led by Shirley Sharkey and
there is no indication that a minimum standard of care is being considered in
this process, according to Ryan.
    One year ago, CUPE Ontario and the Ontario Health Coalition pressed
Smitherman to establish an average of three-and-a-half hours of care per day
per resident. That is the standard that Alberta, New Brunswick and Manitoba
are striving to achieve.
    "The time for talk is over. Study after study has linked staffing and
care standards to improved care and safety," says Ryan, adding that 37 U.S.
states have established minimum staffing standards either in statute or
    CUPE Ontario's surveys among its caregiver members have continued to
reveal a deeply disturbing lack of care because there is simply not enough
staffing and the legal requirement to ensure nursing homes deliver the care
that is required by residents. Over 86% of front line caregivers have worked
short-handed anywhere from once to 20 times a month when caring for nursing
home residents. Fifteen per cent say they have not been able to meet all
resident care needs each day because of understaffing.
    On Valentines Day, long-term care workers will hold information pickets
at local MPP offices and nursing homes in cities across the province. "It's
time for Minister Smitherman to show he really cares and implement a 3.5 hour
average standard of care for our loved ones," says Ryan.

For further information:

For further information: Valerie Dugale, CUPE Communications, (647)
225-3685; Sid Ryan, CUPE Ontario President, (416) 209-0066

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Canadian Union of Public Employees - Ontario Regional Office

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