Kevin Queen at the Kenora District Homes for the Aged has been part of a study into staffing shortages at long-term care homes across the province. It began in February, before the coronavirus outbreak, and authors of the study said the pandemic has only made the staffing situation worse in Ontario.
The study found 60 per cent of staff in long-term care homes are personal support workers, and 40 per cent of the PSW's left within a year of graduating from their program. Authors also said an increase in the needs for patient care of residents is making the demands on personal support workers more difficult. The result of staffing shortages is less care for patients, although staffing shortages in the district have been alleviated in recent weeks by students, Queen noted.
On average, authors of the study found the wait time for a long-term care bed is 152 days, and in that time resident needs may continue to increase. Overall, the authors said residents in long-term care homes are 84 years old, and 84 per cent of them have some type of cognitive impairment, and patients often have advanced and ongoing medical conditions, which means they rely on multiple drug therapies to manage patients.
The shortage of staffing meant operators reported:
- missed baths,
- missed personal care, and
- a lack of toileting, among other basic care functions.
This was attributed to a lack of sufficient direct care per resident per day. It was reported to the authors of the study that PSWs are often rushed and therefore cut corners to optimize the time they have available. As a result, residents may experience:
- increased falls,
- levels of depression,
- anxiety, and
A labour union reported that two-thirds of PSW's and nursing staff that were polled reported that they had to tell a resident they did not have time to take them to the washroom, and the resident would then have to wait.
Staff in long-term care are also at a higher risk of injury. The healthcare sector ranks second highest for injuries resulting in time lost in Ontario, and long-term care workers are among the most at risk for physical injury within the sector.
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