Long term care homes under staffing worse than before COVID-19 health coalition survey finds

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A new survey done by the Ontario Health Coalition says 95 per cent of the health care workers in long term care homes say their workplace is short staffed.

Fifty three per cent of them say it happens every day.

Long term care homes have been locked down since March 13 as part of the effort to curb the spread of COVID-19. During the course of the pandemic – weeks after the homes were locked down – thousands of seniors became ill and so far 1,789 have passed away. That’s about 64 per cent of all deaths in Ontario.

Wednesday was the first day family members were able to visit with their loved ones inside the building.

But essential family care givers – people who normally would spend hours with their loved ones – still have to remain six feet away from the residents and are not allowed to be in their rooms.

The coalition says the staffing in long term care homes was already difficult, but removing those care givers made the situation worse.

The group polled 150 workers in mid-July. Sixty tree per cent of the staff say staffing levels are worse than before COVID-19 hit and 28 per cent say it is about the same.

“Staff have been denied vacation, stat holidays and weekends under emergency orders since the beginning of the pandemic,” says the report.

“Staff have left due to fear, injuries, lack of childcare, and the requirement to choose one home in which to work.  Some homes have dozens of staff lines unfilled. Many work short every day, every shift.

“Most describe worse staffing levels on weekends and evenings and unsafe levels of staffing are routine. Some homes have recently cut back staff hours and are limiting overtime despite severe shortages.”

The workers say baths and showers are missed regularly and emotional support was described as “non-existent.”

“Ontario’s long-term care homes are not ready for a second wave of COVID-19,” concludes the report.

The coalition wants the government to set the standard of care at an average minium of four hours per resident per day. Right now it is around three.

An open letter to the premier written by the coalition is backed by more than 200 organizations. It calls for immediate action.