Dietitians call for more P.E.I. hires in long-term care
'We've really seen a benefit with our health care team and their knowledge of nutrition'
The P.E.I. chapter of Dietitians of Canada is calling for the government to require more dietitians in long-term care centres.
Currently two centres on the Island have a full-time registered dietitian on site.
Both are private centres in Charlottetown. Other centres outsource a dietitian if one is requested.
Dietitians of Canada recommends P.E.I. adopt legislation similar to Ontario's that would require residents in long-term care to get a specific amount of time each month with a dietitian.
"Having a dietitian on site is actually the thing that's explicitly associated with improved benefits," said Sarah Hewko, a Dietitians of Canada member and professor at UPEI.
"Because dietitians are uniquely trained to look holistically at a person and do an assessment of their nutrition … having them on site allows them to have a better working relationship with other health care professionals."
'It would be at least cost neutral'
Hewko said it would likely cost $300,000 per year for the province to hire five registered dietitians. She said the investment would pay for itself in healthcare cost savings.
"I believe based on the literature that it would be at least cost neutral," said Hewko.
"Hiring a dietitian over time would lead to ... enough savings to the system that you're actually sort of paying for the wage of a dietitian through that."
According to a written statement previously provided by Health PEI back in May, "there is one permanent dietitian that supports publicly-funded long-term care homes in the Charlottetown area … and one and a half full-time permanent dietitian resources that support publicly-funded long-term care in east Prince.
"Health PEI's long-term care homes in West Prince and Kings Counties work collaboratively with dietitian resources in local area hospitals and through partnerships with programs such as the Public Health and Community Nutrition Program."
The total number of long-term care beds in the province is 1,247 — which includes 595 beds in public manors and 652 in private facilities.
According to operational and care service standards for community care facilities in P.E.I., all residents in long-term care must have access to a dietitian and menus must be approved by a dietitian.
'We've really seen a benefit'
Dietitian Angela Hogan works at The Mount Continuing Care Community in Charlottetown. She said she began as a temporary employee, but was made permanent when the administration saw the value she brought to the centre.
"We've really seen a benefit with our health care team and their knowledge of nutrition," said Hogan.
"Being able to do education with the staff and education with the families as well ... and then going into detail for specific residents to meet their needs as well."
Hogan said it can be extra challenging to provide the right nutrition for dementia patients. Residents with dementia at The Mount are given a red plate to make it easier for them to identify their food.
The Mount also offers two options at every meal and provides custom plates for those with allergies.
"I think in facilities it can be really beneficial to have a dietitian because there are so many complex cases," said Hogan
"Everyone comes in with different backgrounds about the foods that they eat or the foods that they grew up with. They also come in with different chronic diseases and health issues and food preferences."
CBC News reached out to Health PEI for an update and the department did not provide anyone for comment.