City cuts special long-term care unit for dementia patients due to costs

A specialized unit at the Peter D. Clark Long-Term Care Centre has been reverted to normal, long-stay beds because the City of Ottawa decided it couldn't keep up with the increasing staff costs.
The City of Ottawa reverted specialized beds for residents with dementia-related behavioural problems at the Peter D. Clark Long-Term Care Home to regular long-stay beds in December. (CBC)

The City of Ottawa has closed a specialized unit in one of its long-term care homes that was aimed at giving extra care to residents with dementia who have severe behavioural issues, after just three years of operating it.

The dozen beds at the Peter D. Clark Long Term Care Home were reverted to regular, long-stay beds in December and given to new residents.

The dedicated unit was set up in the home's Centrepointe-area bungalows after the province provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to a 2012 proposal by the city, Alzheimer's Society, Champlain Community Care Access Centre and The Royal mental health care centre.

It was the same city-run long-term care home where an 88-year-old resident was suffocated in his sleep in 2009. Another resident was charged with second-degree murder but later found unfit to stand trial because of mental illness.

The goal of the specialized unit — one of only a handful in Ontario — was to help people whose dementia caused them to yell, become violent or have other behaviours that made them unable to live in a regular long-term care setting.

The residents were looked after by a higher ratio of personal support workers and registered nurses, who were trained to work with them and identify what triggered their behaviour.

Specialized unit not 'financially sustainable'

It's not that the program wasn't working, said Dean Lett, acting director of long-term care for the City of Ottawa.

"We were successful in transitioning people back into long-term care," said Lett.

The city made the decision for financial reasons, he said. 

The program was meant to be funded entirely by the province, but as the city's collective agreements gave nurses and personal support workers their cost-of-living pay raises, Lett said the Ontario funding did not increase.

The city approached the Champlain Local Health Integration Network for extra funding, but there was none to be had, he added.

Lett said it was a tough decision, but the city knew others would need those 12 beds at the Peter D. Clark Long Term Care Home.

"We have quite an extensive wait list both in our homes, and within the region, for long-term care."

LHIN seeks another long-term care centre to give behavioural support

Lett said all of the residents with dementia were found spaces elsewhere.

"While it wasn't an ideal situation, we feel good about how these clients were transitioned back into a health service provider, and they're being well cared for."

The home's staff learned skills during the three years the behavioural support unit was running, and will keep using those techniques, said Lett.

And the community may not lose that specialized care for people with dementia.

A statement provided by the Champlain LHIN states that it understands the services that had been offered by the Peter D. Clark Long Term Care Home are important.

"We are now working very closely with another long-term care home in Ottawa to create a new behavioural support unit," read a statement from the LHIN, promising more information in the coming weeks.