Staffing levels in B.C. care homes dangerously low union report

News release

Staffing levels in B.C.’s long-term care facilities don’t come close to meeting the basic daily care needs of residents, according to a new report released today by the Hospital Employees’ Union.

The union compared direct care levels in B.C.’s continuing care system with minimum benchmarks set out in a recent U.S. congressional study prepared by the Health Care Financing Authority (HCFA).

The analysis indicates that care levels in B.C. — measured in daily direct Care Aide hours per resident — are about one hour less than what is required to meet current care requirements and improve outcomes for seniors. In fact, staffing for Care Aides — who provide the bulk of personal care to elderly residents of long-term care facilities in this province — falls below HCFA levels required to avoid serious harm to residents.

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HEU’s secretary-business manager Chris Allnutt says the situation has become more serious over the last decade as people entering long-term care are now frailer, have more complex care needs and are more likely to suffer from dementia.

"Care Aides and other nursing staff are doing their very best to provide good quality care to seniors,” says Allnutt. “But these front-line caregivers are struggling to deliver the most basic level of care let alone give seniors the social and physical stimulation they require to maintain good health.

“These findings give new urgency to the need to establish staffing ratios in long-term care that are safe for both residents and staff,” adds Allnutt, whose union is at the bargaining table with a proposal that would establish minimum staffing levels in long-term care through a joint process with health care employers.

The HCFA determined that 2.9 hours of Care Aide time is required to perform basic daily care services that are linked to good health outcomes: repositioning and changing wet clothes, repositioning and toileting, exercise encouragement and assistance, feeding assistance and independence enhancement (morning care). And two hours of direct Care Aide time are required to avoid serious harm to residents.

Under B.C.’s funding guidelines for long-term care staffing — which are 20 years old — care facilities are only funded for between 1.37 and 2.1 hours of daily Care Aide time per resident and it’s generally accepted that actual funding levels provide for only 85 to 90 per cent of the guidelines.

There are more than 25,000 residents in B.C.’s continuing care system. Ninety per cent of the workers in long-term care facilities are HEU members.

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For more information, please contact at 604/734-3431: Stephen Howard, Communications Director (604/240-8524 cell)