Open Letter: Park Lane Terrace a Microcosm of a Provincial Problem
The reality of Ontario’s long term care is both shocking and upsetting
The heartbreaking story, “It Just Gets Worse,” by Global News reporter Abigail Bimman, should both shock and upset the public. Because the reality of Ontario’s long term care is both shocking and upsetting. The first-hand accounts by the family members of residents at Park Lane Terrace recount tragic experiences of neglect. Sons finding their mothers soaking wet in their own urine. Daughters discovering their mothers were victims of violence from other residents. Families seeing call-bells and requests for help go unanswered.
This reality goes on every day, and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care is well aware. A 172-page report on the state of affairs at Park Lane Terrace proves that. Yet not much changes. CEOs promise positive changes and recommit to focusing on resident wellbeing. The ministry responds by promising increased regulation and to introduce 15,000 new long term care beds into the system over five years. But every day, our society’s most vulnerable are prevented from living out their days in dignity by a system that has let them down. And it just gets worse.
Incredibly, neither CEOs nor the ministry has announced any plan to address the number one issue facing long term care in Ontario. Staffing.
Chronic under-staffing plagues nursing homes across Ontario. The number of workers willing to endure the sort of impossible stress that being a PSW demands is plummeting. And understandably so. Enticing new recruits to work as PSWs in long term care has become a massive challenge. A challenge that we are failing at. In fact, across the province many PSW courses have been cancelled due to lack of student enrolment.
We need to ask why this is. Why are existing staff leaving the industry? Why is enrolment for new staff down? The answer is right in front of us. As one family member noted about the staff at Park Lane Terrace: “the pressure on regular staff is immense . . . The stress on them is crazy. Yet through it all, they are still able to do somewhat of their jobs, but are struggling, and hence it is reflecting on the residents.”
Why would anyone sign up to do the noble work of caring for our society’s elderly when they aren’t actually provided with staffing support or the time to care? “Come work as a PSW—you’ll finish each day in tears because you can’t provide dignified care,” isn’t a very attractive job recruitment proposition.
This is why CLAC launched its “Thank a PSW” campaign. The existing staff at Park Lane Terrace should be thanked for doing their best under impossible conditions. They should be praised for their noble work. And then we should demand change. For without a plan to address the chronic staffing shortages across all long term care homes, the heartbreaking stories from family members at Park Lane Terrace and other long term care homes will only get worse.