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Violence rising in seniors homes

Ontario Health Coalition calls for provincial action

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Violence in long-term care homes in Ontario is on the rise according to a report from the Ontario Health Coalition.

The report, “Situation Critical: Planning, Access, Levels of Care and Violence in Ontario’s Long-Term Care,” makes note of resident-on-resident violence, as well as the increase in the complexity of the care needs of residents.

Trish McAuliffe, co-chair of the Durham Health Coalition, and Natalie Mehra, executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition, both agree work needs to be done in order to improve the conditions in long-term care homes (LTCHs) in Ontario.

The report indicates there are almost 80,000 people in LTCHs around Ontario, while another 30,000 are currently waiting to get in.

McAuliffe and Mehra both indicate the waiting time for those hoping to move into a LTCH is between four to seven years.

According to the report, there’ve been 27 resident-on-resident homicides in Ontario long-term care homes between 2012 to 2016.

The Ontario Coroner reports the rate of homicides in LTCHs is four times that of Toronto, and eight times that of communities with a size similar to the 80,000 people in LTCHs in Ontario.

The report also notes since 2011, staff injuries have also increased.

Mehra says at the moment nothing is being done to quell the escalating violence.

“We really felt that it was important to shine a spotlight on this issue. Not to scare people away from LTCHs, because many people have no choice anyway, and they need to be able to live in them safely,” Mehra says. “But because it just cannot go on that this situation is ignored, and peoples lives are irreversibly damaged in numbers that are greater than anywhere else in our society.”

According to McAuliffe, based on data gathered from provincial websites and the 2016 census, Ontario is second to last in the number of long-term care beds per 1,000 people.

She also notes the only province ranked lower than Ontario is Newfoundland, where the population is just under one fifth the size of Toronto alone.

McAuliffe says, “Ontario has cut more hospital beds than anywhere in the ‘developed’ world compared to every other Canadian province and peer jurisdictions around the world.”

According to the report, the needs of those requiring long term care beds has increased, and hands on care levels have actually declined, which McAuliffe and Mehra believe is part of the cause of the escalating violence.

The report focuses on Elizabeth Wettlaufer, a long-term care nurse who killed eight senior citizens, and attempted to murder six others.

“The staff called to the stand from the long-term care homes at which Elizabeth Wetlauffer worked testified repeatedly that the heightened acuity of long-term care residents has increased the workload of the nursing staff,” reads the report.

According to the report, long-term care beds are funded at one-third the rate of chronic care beds, “but house residents who used to be considered chronic care or psycho geriatric care.”

The Ontario Health Coalition says while the shift is saving money, it is at the expense of the health and safety of the residents and staff of long-term care homes.

McAuliffe says other provinces “have the source of funding that’s required, bottom line. You can’t operate on the dime, you have to provide the sufficient funds, the sufficient training, and in a lot of cases be creative in ways that recognize that geriatric care is the health care of today and tomorrow.”

She also says the province was aware of the rise in the number of those needing LTCHs, but was unprepared, while other provinces planned ahead.

“Our seniors, our most frail seniors, deserve the investment in the last days of their life,” McAuliffe says.