Are Nursing Home Woes a Sign of Ageism?

Last Saturday, our summer season of White Coat, Black Art began with a re-broadcast of a show that aired last April about ageism in the health care system. In an interview, Dr. Janice Lessard, a geriatrician, lamented the state of health care for seniors.

Earlier this year, an investigation by The Canadian Press found three-quarters of the private nursing homes in Ontario had been cited for failing to meet some of the Ontario government's numerou standards. According to a news report dated July 3, 2008 by The Canadian Press, Ontario's Ombudsman is deliberating on the possibility of launching a probe of conditions for residents of long-term care facilities in the province.

Unfortunately, the problems uncovered in Ontario exist right across Canada. While some or perhaps even a majority of residents are well cared for, all too many are not. There are reports of seniors restrained and sedated for no reason other than to make it easier for staff to care for them, catheterized so that staff don't have to tend to their personal needs, and forced to remain in unchanged beds filled with bodily fluids.

To be fair, some of these problems are the direct result of cutbacks in health care. But when does a reason become an excuse? It seems to me that if long term care facilities lack the resources to care for residents, then they shouldn't offer the care in the first place.

This Saturday and next (July 5 and 12 at 930 am or 10 am NT on CBC Radio One), White Coat, Black Art checks into the competence of Canada's physicians and nurses, and the system that's supposed to protect the public from health professionals who aren't up to scratch. And on Monday, July 7 (1130 am or noon NT on CBC Radio One), we check in with physicians who haul our their medical credentials when they want faster service at the bank or at the garage.

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