Thunder Bay

Local health advocates call for more funding, staffing in long-term care

The Thunder Bay Health Coalition says a new report from the Ontario Health Coalition reflects the situation faced by local long-term care residents and staff.

Ontario Health Coalition report points to rising violence, even homicides

Health care advocates in Thunder Bay, Ont. discuss a report on long-term care from the Ontario Health Coalition. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

Laurie Raslack says she couldn't stand by and watch her mother's decline in long-term care without doing something. 

The Thunder Bay, Ont. resident says she became an advocate for both long-term care patients and personal support workers after she watched overburdened staff struggling to keep up with workload — and after she struggled herself to ensure her mother got adequate care.

"I started noticing how hard [the] role was for a PSW to get 27 residents down for lunch. I started helping out ... and as things got worse I started fighting for them," she said. 

"And then my mother started to deteriorate, and I had to really start fighting for her."

Raslack shared her story on Tuesday at a local release event for a new report from the Ontario Health Coalition.

The report, titled Situation Critical, says that as the demand for long-term care rises in the province, too many people are struggling to access it, and once there, they face inadequate care. It points to understaffing, violence and even homicide as growing problems. 

While there have been no instances of homicide locally, the report paints an accurate picture of the situation in town, said Jules Tupker, the chair of the Thunder Bay Health Coalition. 

Jules Tupker is the chair of the Thunder Bay Health Coalition. (Amy Hadley/CBC)

"The report reflects exactly the situation here in Thunder Bay — that the staff are under a huge amount of pressure trying to get the job done that they want to do," he said.

"There's just not enough staff, they're overworked, they're overburdened by the amount of work and by the acuity of the residents that they're dealing with."

Reports of violence against patients and staff in long-term care are common, he added, especially in units where patients are suffering from diseases such as dementia. 

Among the report's recommendations is that every patient in long-term care receive four hours of direct, hands-on care per day.

"We've been pushing for that for a number of years now," said Tupker. 

The report also points to long wait times, a reduction in chronic care hospital beds and the privatization of long-term care as problems. 

"It's a serious situation. Hopefully this government and enough people will stand up and say 'this is not right,'" Tupker said.