Seniors care short-staffed, advocate says

Not one of the seven publicly subsidized seniors care homes on the North Shore is meeting the provincial guidelines for staffing of nurses and support workers.

B.C. seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie released her annual tally on Wednesday showing only 10 per cent of all public care homes in the province were meeting the guideline of 3.36 hours of staff time per patient per day for direct care like bathing and hygiene or help with eating and social interaction.

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The report also compiles incidents that put seniors at risk like disease outbreaks, abuse or neglect, missing or wandering persons, medication errors, falls resulting in injuries, and aggression between persons in care.

Kiwanis Care Centre in the Seymour area ranked closest to the provincial staffing guidelines at 3.29 hours, however, with 22 cases of aggression, it exceeded the provincial average by about 7.5 times. (In 2016, the Kiwanis manager said the facility has a very low threshold for what it considers aggression and only one of those cases resulted in an injury).

Evergreen House at Lions Gate Hospital posted 3.26 hours, although it did exceed provincial averages for injuries, wandering seniors and medication errors.

The Lynn Valley Care Centre has 3.08 hours of funded care time per patient per day and did not exceed provincial averages for any reportable incidents.

Cedarview Lodge in Lynn Valley had 2.99 hours per patient per day and none of the reported incidents exceeded the provincial averages.

In West Vancouver, Inglewood Care Centre on Sentinel Hill posted 2.78 hours of care. It also had almost three times the cases of falls/adverse events resulting in injuries compared to the rest of the province, as well as slightly higher incidences of outbreaks, wandering seniors, aggression, and other injuries.

The Capilano Care Centre is funded for 2.73 direct care hours and had higher than average incidences of falls resulting in injuries, wandering seniors, aggression between residents and other injuries, according to the report.

West Vancouver Care Centre had the lowest recorded hours of patient care time at 2.31 hours, but had fewer than the average cases of all reportable incidents.

Mackenzie is calling on the province to increase funding and bring in stringent monitoring of care hours.

“Not getting enough hours of care has potentially serious impacts on seniors who are living in these environments,” Mackenzie said in a statement.

“It can mean they are not being taken to the bathroom when they need to, they may not be getting fed properly, meaning they don’t receive proper nutrition, and the list goes on.”

The B.C. Hospital Employees Union secretary-business manager Jennifer Whiteside said the report is shocking.

“It certainly puts some figures to what our members tell us every day about the crisis in staffing that is out there in the long-term care sector,” Whiteside said.

The seniors care system has been underfunded and plagued by privatization and contract flipping for a decade, Whiteside added.

“Care homes are bought and sold like real estate,” she said.

The province’s guidelines should be the minimum, Whiteside said, and they should be enforced by legislation.

“Having guidelines is not enough. If 90 per cent of the care facilities in the province are not providing a basic minimum standard that’s been identified by the ministry of health, then something is very wrong in the system,” she said.

In a statement, the province’s parliamentary secretary for seniors Darryl Plecas welcomed the report and pledged to improve support for seniors.

“Last year, B.C. spent $2.9 billion on home and community care, an increase of over $1.3 billion from 2001,” the statement read. “The standard we are most focused on is having care providers deliver high-quality care at whatever level is most appropriate for an individual resident.”

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