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Ministry report finds inadequate staffing at Brucelea Haven possibly led to the deaths of two residents

An elderly woman in a wheelchair is flanked by two health care workers next to a graphic reading "Nursing Homes Should Be A Safe Place To Live. Better Care. Safer Work. #CareTakesTime."
August 7, 2019 - 12:00 AM

WALKERTON – Healthcare workers represented by Unifor Local 2458 at Brucelea Haven, a home for the aged in Walkerton, are not surprised by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care Compliance Officers Report on the living and working conditions at the home.

“For months now workers have raised the issue of lack of adequate staffing to the employer, including holding a rally in front of the home on May 16,” said Tullio DiPonti, President Unifor Local 2458. “Our members will always put the residents first, and risk burnout to work hundreds of hours of overtime, yet they still work short 95% of the time. If the employer had listened to the repeated warnings of workers, residents and families to increase staffing levels, I believe these tragic incidents could have been avoided.”

On July 24, the ministry’s long-term care inspections branch released its findings on their investigation of the conditions at Brucelea Haven. The ministry issued a compliance order that included a staggering 31 written notifications with two directors order and 18 non-compliance orders for the home address.

The report found that a lack of adequate staffing resulted in, residents not receiving baths, mouth care, toileting assistance, timely medications or assistance with feeding.

“Inadequate staffing levels are not unique to Brucelea Haven. When tragedy strikes then some homes get caught, but many more continue to operate unchecked with similar appalling conditions,” said Ken Durocher, Secretary-Treasurer Unifor Local 2458. “The chronic understaffing and inability to recruit and retain staff, especially personal support workers, are symptoms of system-wide underfunding, deteriorating working conditions and low compensation are faced by skilled workers in long term care sector across Ontario.” 

The employer has committed to hire 13 additional personal support workers, an additional registered nurse support position, two directors of care, a new clinical care co-ordinator position and developing a new schedule that will aim to improve consistent delivery of baths to residents. The ministry has given Brucelea Haven until Febuary 2020 to be fully compliant of all its orders.

“To the Ontario Government; it’s time to stop passing the buck. You must immediately address the ongoing crisis in long-term care. As we saw just last week from the Wettlaufer Inquiry, and from this report, there is  a severe need for increased investment and staffing in the province’s long-term care system to avoid another tragedy. These recommendations for Brucelea should be applied right across the board. People’s lives are at stake and we need this government to act,” said DiPonti.

Unifor represents 140 employees in Housekeeping , Dietary ,Laundry , Maintenance, RPN , PSW classifications at the Brucelea Haven home. Along with more than 14,000 Unifor Long-Term Care works across Ontario, they have actively campaigned and lobbied for a minimum measurable, enforceable standard of care that would provide for safe staff to resident ratio’s. Information on the Unifor campaign can be found at

The union welcomes the additional staff that will be hired and will be working with the employer to ensure all Ministry orders implemented in full.  The challenge will be attracting personal support workers as their remains a dangerous shortage across the province. 

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at or 647-448-2823 (cell)