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Long term care in a Long term crisis.

Heather Neiser, President CUPE local 1404

August 13, 2019

I am Heather Neiser, I have worked in Long Term Care for over 20 years as a PSW, I have been the President of CUPE local 1404 for over 5 years. My sister lived where I work for the last 5 years of her life; my mom spent some time on our Convalescent Care Unit, she passed away at the Hamilton General. So I am a frontline worker, have been a family member, and represent other LTC workers. I feel it, I see it and I hear the concerns from every perspective. Our system is in crisis.

No other province across Canada reports fewer LTC, health care staff per resident, than Ontario. For being one of the richest provinces this is deplorable. The poor or disadvantaged face cut after cut, while the rich get richer off our backs, as Ford continues to bastardize our health care, and put it up for sale, putting each and every Ontarian at risk.

As a PSW it is heartbreaking not to have the time sit with a resident who is distraught over a loss of a child, or toilet a resident when they ask, forcing them to become incontinent, then not having the time to change them because they are a 2 person lift and there is only one of me. 

There is no time for one on one care, no time for companionship or conversation, our residents are neglected and treated like products on an assembly line. There is not sufficient time to provide basic quality care, residents are neglected and isolated. 

Call bells ring endlessly as staff are busy trying to do care. RPN’s have so much documentation, often having to take responsibility for up to 52 residents.

At night there is only 1 PSW on a unit of up to 32 residents and 1 RPN for 100 residents, and 1 RN for the building. This is a systemic issue that is happening in all Long-Term Care homes across Ontario, not just one. 

Residents are deteriorating faster, falling more, becoming more incontinent, becoming more aggressive as their simplest needs are not met, killing each other and dying alone. 

This is one of the many reasons why we need more funding for Long Term Care. It is truly unfortunate that the Conservative Government has not addressed the systemic, worsening, crumbling, critical and now fatal issue.

In the Hamilton area there have been 3 residents beaten to death by another resident, and 29 in the province over the last 6 years and multiple violent resident on resident assaults in Long Term Care. 

Long Term Care facilities have been turned into complex continuing care hospitals, without the funding, resources, staff, training and support. Long Term Care has not received any recognition of this in its funding structure, it is still funded as though it was a custodial service agency, instead of a facility delivering complex medical care to all ages. 

Home Care is inundated, wages are too low to retain staff, sick and ill seniors go days without being seen.

PSW’s in Long Term Care are run off their feet, and for the most part unable to do our job due to the number of residents, resident needs, employer policies, families, and other residents.

There is no dignity, no privacy, no empathy and no time to care.

Workers go home demoralized, frustrated, burnt out, broken, knowing we could not provide the care our residents deserve. This a direct result of understaffing, underfunding and Government turning its back on the most vulnerable. 

We are all trying our best, but we’re going home at the end of the day emotionally drained. These are the people who spent their lives building and caring for our communities – they deserve to live with dignity in their final home.

I would be remiss if I did not shine a light on the good things. PSW’s are the hardest working group of unrecognized and under-paid health care providers, they are the first person your loved one sees when they open their eyes, and the last person before the go to sleep. We break our backs and wear our hearts on our sleeves, we skip breaks so care gets done, we know what the residents’ favorite foods are, we know how they like their hair brushed, how they like to be dressed, when they like their showers, what they want on TV, we know they like their coffee and that they have a sweet tooth. We hear how lonely they are, we hear the wants, we feel it, and it is killing us too.

Now Ford has imposed a 3 years’ cap at 1% increase on our pay. This budget is literally murder, while they sit back and take a 144 day vacation. Donna Skelly is my MPP and I have met with her several times over the last 12 months, she has done nothing to address this critical, and criminal issue in Long Term Care. It is abundantly obvious that each Conservative MPP does not have the ability to think for themselves or stand up for their constituents, but instead clap like trained seals and abandon every Ontarian in need.

The Provincial Government needs to fund Long Term Care and not just “adequately”, put minimum staffing ratios in place, and hold employers accountable, acknowledge the ever-increasing threat and actuality of violence. Give us the time to care. 

This is simply no way for our seniors to live.



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