An advocacy group for residents of long-term care homes wants Ontario to legislate minimum staffing standards.

It says issues in Thunder Bay nursing homes brought to light this week by CBC News reflect problems across the province.

Lois Dent

Lois Dent, interim president of Concerned Friends of Ontario Citizens in Care Facilities, says long-term care homes need more front-line staff and those workers need to be trained to manage patients affected by dementia and mental illness. (Supplied)

The interim president of Concerned Friends of Ontario Citizens in Care Facilities said the provincial government once required nursing homes to provide a minimum number of personal care hours per resident.

But now, there's no legislated standard, Lois Dent said. Next week, Concerned Friends will publicly ask the province to change that.

Dent said minimum standards should go beyond increasing the number of personal support workers and nursing staff in long-term care facilities. 

"The front-line staff has to be better trained in order to deal appropriately ... with ... some of the difficult and complex residents that long-term care homes now have to work with,” she said.

Dent said that includes learning how to care for people with dementia and mental health issues.

"The Ministry of Health has to put more money into their long-term care homes ... to staff ... the wards with front-line staff that is trained to deal with people that have difficult behaviours,” she added.

'Giving people skills and abilities'

Tracy Buckler

St. Joseph's Care Group president and CEO Tracy Buckler says funding remains a major challenge for long-term care. (Nicole Ireland/CBC)

The president and CEO of St. Joseph's Care Group said she hopes the education and research component of its new seniors facility, currently under construction, will help achieve that in Thunder Bay.

"It's giving people skills and abilities ... and training to be able to do what they truly want to do to provide the best care for the residents that we serve,” Tracy Buckler said.

However, Buckler acknowledged that funding remains a major challenge in providing long-term care.

She said St. Joseph's Care Group continues to advocate for more funding, not only to care for existing residents, but to address the extensive waiting list of people waiting for long-term care beds in Thunder Bay.