New Brunswick

Woman who put camera in mom's nursing-home room calls for more staff

A Fredericton woman who installed a camera in her mother's nursing home room says she welcomes campaign promises to boost seniors' care.

Fredericton woman welcomes attention from political parties on shortcomings in care for seniors

A camera recorded staff at Shannex Parkland in Fredericton caring for Irene Murphy mother. (Submitted)

A Fredericton woman who installed a camera in her mother's nursing home room says she welcomes campaign promises to boost seniors' care. 

"In the mornings, I've timed them," said Irene Murphy, who uses her phone to watch a video link of workers responding to her mother's bedside at the Shannex Parkland off Prospect Street. 

"It's 10 minutes from the time they get her up, in the bathroom, and out of her room to the breakfast table. Ten minutes."

Murphy wants to see funding for more support staff who are better paid and better trained, especially when it comes to managing advanced dementia. 

Her 100-year-old mother also has deteriorating eyesight and has lately been prone to small strokes.  
Since her admission in 2010, Murphy has gone to see her mother four or five times a week.   

Then she went one step further in July.  

She said staff had reported to her what they described as "unwitnessed falls" that resulted in bruising to her mother's arms, legs and face, and in one case, a cut so severe it meant a trip to the hospital for stitches. 

Murphy installed a camera inside her 100-year-old mother's nursing home bedroom for 'peace of mind.' (Photo: CBC)

When Murphy learned that two other families on the floor had installed video cameras, she paid about $200 to do the same.

For "peace of mind," said Murphy, who is retired and living on a fixed income in a north side apartment.  

Murphy uses her phone to watch a video link of workers at her mother's bedside. (Photo: CBC)

"I just find that they're being maybe more accountable for what their duties are supposed to be."

Murphy is not alleging that Shannex has been negligent and said she's been told by management the staff-patient ratio meets regulations.

A request for an interview with the Shannex general manager was declined. 

"We are proud of our team members who provide competent, professional and compassionate care each and every day," a spokesperson for the company said in an email to CBC.  

Nursing homes can't fill jobs

The Shannex Parkland just off Prospect Street in Fredericton. (Photo: CBC)

The New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes retention and recruitment problems have been around for years and are expected to intensify as the workforce ages.

"We're anticipating mass retirements" said executive director Jodi Hall. 

Last year, in a survey of the association's 68 members, 36 vacancies were reported for registered nurses, 49 for licensed practical nurses and 102 for resident assistants.

The staff shortages meant the homes couldn't all operate at full capacity, although elderly hospital patients waited for space.  

Staff improvements for nursing homes and more support for in-home care have been prominent promises in the campaign for the Sept. 24 election. (Photo: CBC)

According to the Health Department, as of the end of July, 451 seniors were occupying hospital beds but waiting for nursing home beds.  

"We've seen this crisis coming," said Cindy Donovan, CEO of Loch Lomond Villa, Saint John's largest nursing home. 

"And with the extra beds that are being built, it's only going to be compounding that problem in regards to staff shortages."

Election promises

Staff improvements for nursing homes and more support for in-home care have been prominent promises during the provincial election campaign.

For example, the Liberal, Green Party and New Democratic parties have pledged to boost hours of care per resident to  3.5 hours a day from 3.1 hours.

The People's Alliance said it would "staff existing nursing home facilities to enable beds to be filled, alleviating the pressure on hospital beds."

The Progressive Conservatives pledged to "support seniors who want to stay at home by ensuring the province has enough trained home-care professionals earning a wage upon which a career can be built."

Pilot program successful

Cindy Donovan, the CEO of Loch Lomond Villa in Saint John, expects the staffing crisis to intensify. (Photo: CBC)

In 2010, the province initiated an experiment at the Central Carleton Nursing Home in Hartland, Foyer Notre-Dame de Lourdes in Bathurst and the Fredericton Shannex. 

In the first two homes, the Department of Social Development boosted funding to provide 3.5 hours of care a day per resident. 

The Shannex facilities provided 3.5 hours per resident per day, within their existing budgets, using "a different skill mix."

"The most noticeable area of improvement is that residents are not being rushed through their day, particularly, as it relates to hygiene, grooming and meals, " concluded a government summary report. 

"These impacts may, at first glance, appear to be minor changes; however, these have immense implications. Staff members get to know the residents better, provide greater choice and dignity to residents and develop meaningful relationships with the residents."

Nurse shortage will get worse

The New Brunswick Association of Nursing Homes says jobs are going unfilled and the staff shortage will likely get worse as people retire. (Photo: CBC)

The Nurses Association of New Brunswick and the New Brunswick Nurses Union say the province has been graduating fewer nurses in recent years. 

They say the total number of spots for students in nursing programs between UNB and L'Université de Moncton was 361 in 2013, 311 in 2014, 314 in 2015, 306 in 2016 and 311 in 2017.

According to their report titled "Nursing Matters: Election Priorities 2018," the number of graduates has also declined: from 351 in 2015, 300 in 2014, 219 in 2015, 299 in 2016 and 280 in 2017.

"The faculty of nursing actually have vacant seats but they don't have enough instructors or the means or resources to accept people on the wait list," said Paula Doucet, president of the nurses union. 

"So we need to be looking at that."