The following is from the website of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE), many of whose members work at nursing homes here in Winnipeg and elsewhere.
Winnipeg families speaking out on nursing home shortages:
Winnipeg (3 Nov. 2008) - The families of patients requiring nursing home care in Winnipeg are speaking out about the inability of overworked staff to provide the care levels their loved ones need. There are simply not enough workers, no matter how dedicated they are, to provide quality care to all residents.
This is an issue that the National Union of Public and General Employees has been working hard to address in all parts of the country. The union recently published a report entitled Dignity Denied: Long-term Care and Canada's Elderly.
"The annual turnover rate among direct care nursing home staff typically runs at 20% for nurses and 40% for health care aides," NUPGE president James Clancy noted at the time. "Health science professionals such as dietitians, therapists and social workers are often treated as frills and the first to be disposed of when budget cuts are implemented."
Darlene Dowse, a former care-home nurse, says she became aware of the problem after placing her father in St. Adolphe Personal Care Home in 2006, and later moving him to Meadowood Manor. He has since passed away at age 81.
Despite having been an athlete into his senior years, her father's condition deteriorated badly after he was placed in nursing home care and Dowse says she knows the reasons why.
"A health care aide at that facility spoke to me," she told CBC News. "One night, or one evening, two health care aides had to look after 44 clients. That's ridiculous. How can you give good care? How can you even give the basics?"
The Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) released a study last year documenting similar - and worse - conditions in many institutions. For example, it found that for many night-shift nurses, the ratio of patients to staff was 80 to one.
Ollie Ewert, who has spent more than a decade working as a psychiatric nurse in Winnipeg nursing homes, was also interviewed by the CBC. She said at one of her placements, staff members were run literally off their feet, some working as long as 32 hours in a row, or in another case 19 days in a row.
"Staff were fearful of expressing their concerns for fear of retaliation," Ewert said.
The Manitoba government has committed $40 million to hire an additional 400 staff at nursing homes across the province over four years. About 120 are already at work.
But Ray Koop, spokesman for Meadowood Manor, told the CBC that problems persist despite the extra help. "Even though we have additional funds to provide additional staffing, it continues to be a problem trying to recruit nurses and health care aides, especially," he said.