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Wettlaufer inquiry highlights need for increased staffing in long-term care homes

July 31, 2019 - 12:00 AM

TORONTO – The release of the Public Inquiry into the Safety and Security of Residents in the Long-Term Care Homes System identifies the severe need for increased investments and staffing in the province’s long-term care system.

“The lack of oversight and inadequate staffing due to chronic underfunding of long-term care homes in Ontario is directly linked to the horrific crimes committed by Wettlaufer,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Wettlaufer committed these crimes on the night shift, when both nurses and personal support workers are spread incredibly thin with high ratios of staff to residents, leaving vulnerable seniors exposed.”

Following Elizabeth Wettlaufer’s conviction of eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault the Ontario Government established “the Long-Term Care Homes Public Inquiry” on August 1, 2017.

The Inquiry’s mandate was to inquire into the events, relevant policies, procedures, practises, accountability and oversight mechanisms that led to the offences committed by Wettlaufer while working as a registered nurse in long-term care homes.

“The best working conditions for health care workers make for the best resident conditions,” said Katha Fortier, Assistant to Unifor National President. “The lack of measurable enforcement for nurse and PSW ratio’s to residents leaves residents and staff with unsafe living and working conditions.” 

The 1500 page report offers 91 recommendations that include increasing the number of nursing home staff, strengthening ministry oversight, increased funding for training and education for health care workers and government infrastructure grants.

“Unifor has always made the connection that quality care requires safe ratios, and that can only be accomplished by a regulated and enforceable minimum standard of care. The ball is in Minister Fullerton’s court and it’s up to her to immediately implement these recommendations to ensure this situation never happens again,” said Dias.

While the report sheds light on the inadequate staffing levels of some health care workers, it simply fails to address the need to increase Personal Support Workers (PSW) in nursing homes.

“By neglecting the need to increase PSW’s - the frontline workers who provide the direct hands-on care for residents, and are the first to notice changes in their condition, the report ultimately ignores addressing Ontario’s PSW shortage and the conditions that have made this situation much worse”, said Fortier.

The union has been steadfast in demanding that any increased investments for health care staffing must include increasing and retaining personal support workers.

To read the full report click here.

Unifor represents more than 30,000 health care workers, including hospitals, long-term care, emergency services, and community and social services and is Canada’s largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.

For more information, please contact Unifor Communications Representative Hamid Osman at hamid.osman@unifor.org or 647-448-2823 (cell)