Long-term care home making changes: families

Bonnie Belec
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Son of resident at Hoyles-Escasoni Complex says Eastern Health yet to change bunker mentality

Family members say they are seeing positive changes at the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex in St. John’s, but that hasn’t eased all of their frustrations.

A recent meal at the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex.

Ken Kavanagh’s mother is a resident of the long-term care facility, and he first expressed his concerns with The Telegram Oct. 5 when his mother was served canned spaghettios as a meal — and not by choice, he said.

He said then, and has said since, the food is only one of many issues of concern at the facility, which has 357 long-term care beds.

Kavanagh said understaffing and how it affects patient care, as well as inadequate public policy and a lack of accountability, are some of the issues that need to be addressed by Eastern Health. “We are seeing some improvement, but that doesn’t mean these issues are solved or resolved because there is still the whole underlying issue around the policies being put forward by the minister (of health), the government and Eastern Health,” Kavanagh said.

Kavanagh has called the government’s claim that Eastern Health is saving money — $22 million in the first quarter of the 2013-14 fiscal year (to June 30) through operational improvement initiatives while not affecting patient care, “bull.”

“It’s disheartening to listen to them — there’s all kinds of lies, outright lies, misrepresentations, diversions, deferrals, and it’s really ridiculous — and instead of being concerned about issues, they go into a bunker mentality and look at how they can best protect their collective asses,” he said.

Another woman, whose mother is also a resident at the complex, told The Telegram Friday she has seen an increase in staff since last week.

“There are a higher number of staff who have appeared at mealtimes. This past Sunday I could not help but be pleased to see a number of staff coming into the main eating area and making every effort to ensure all residents were eating and provided assistance when food needs to be cut,” she said.

“I’m told residents had turkey at dinner and when I arrived for supper they all were being served cold plates. On returning to my mother’s room I saw that there were also several bedridden residents being fed. Before there used to be one staff who attended to all who ate in the main room and two to three that had to go through the unit feeding bedridden patients,” she said.

However, the woman said her serenity didn’t last long. She said she heard Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski on the radio recently and her frustration level hit the ceiling.

“I found it a slap in the face when she said she’s received hundreds of calls from relatives who are very happy with the care of their relatives, but somehow their stories are not being told. Has The Telegram been blocking positive stories of the Hoyles-Escasoni, or is Ms. Kaminski referencing calls regarding longterm care in general?

“I am surprised that Ms. Kaminski receives or takes any calls, as my family have tried to contact her on a number of occasions over the last several months relaying concerns, and none of our emails have been responded to,” said the woman.

The Telegram has received several positive website comments about the complex. However, only one man said he would be willing to do an interview about the good care his wife receives, but after being given contact information, he didn’t call The Telegram back.

The union that represents some of the staff members of Eastern Health has told The Telegram there is a policy of not replacing the first person off on leave. However, this has not been verified by Eastern Health, though the vice-president of long-term care, Alice Kennedy, has said it’s not a policy as such.

Kavanagh wonders what Kennedy means by “as such.”

“Two of my family members met with management people, and were told point blank there is a noreplacement policy for the first callin. So someone is telling a lie. Not a fabrication, not a misrepresentation. It’s an outright lie,” he said.

J.J. Dray’s 63-year-old mother also lives at Hoyles-Escasoni. Their complaints centre around a lack of fresh food and the fact she went 10 days without having access to a bathtub because the one on her unit was broken.

She received a bed bath, but was used to her one tub bath a week, as per policy.

Dray told The Telegram Friday the tubs are fixed, but the lack of fresh food is still a problem.

“In my view, on Mom’s unit they are still working short staffed regularly. The staff aren’t allowed to tell you if they are working short, even if you ask them. But to anyone who visits there on a regular basis, it’s as obvious as a slap in the face, in my view. And I haven’t seen any noticeable changes in the quality of the food,” said Dray, who fought for nine months to get fresh salads added to his mother’s menu.

Regarding the food, resident Pauline Porter says the meals she receives are fantastic.

The 61-year-old, who suffers from chronic pain, told The Telegram her biggest concern is staffing.

“I’ve been over-medicated twice this summer. The first time it was a very high dose. Then I was given another resident’s medication along with my own because they are trying to rush through their work. This is what happens when they don’t have enough staff to do what they need to do,” she said.

According to Eastern Health, Hoyles-Escasoni has about 300 permanent full-time and parttime nursing staff and about 120 nursing staff on shift daily. Of the 120, it says, there is an average of eight to 10 daily calls for short-term sick leave.

“We have significant temporary call-in staff. However, due to high levels of absenteeism, we don’t have enough. The sick leave rate is higher in long-term care than anywhere else in our system and we have the highest sick leave nationally,” Eastern Health has previously stated.

The authority says it has all of its permanent, full-time positions filled, but relief staff for shortterm leave is a challenge.

Kaminski visited Hoyles-Escasoni Thursday, but when The Telegram asked questions about the visit, Eastern Health replied, “Should the opportunity present itself for us to respond to these or any other question you have posed, we will do so. However, as I have said, we will not be responding to you directly.”

When asked what the email meant, the authority replied, “Eastern Health has decided it will not provide any further comment to The Telegram on its current series of stories focused on the care provided at the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex.”

Editor's note: In lieu of meeting with The Telegram on Friday, Eastern Health CEO Vickie Kaminski submitted a commentary which can be found here.

Organizations: The Telegram, Hoyles-Escasoni Complex, The Telegram back.The union

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Recent comments

  • carogers
    October 21, 2013 - 07:40

    Why is it acceptable for people on the tax payers dime to respond to allegations of negligent work practices by lying? Why has' "pretend everything is ok", become Eastern Health response despite glaring evidence that this is not the truth? What do we have to do, set up a camera on our loved ones pajamas to stop the lying and have problems addressed?

  • Reen
    October 20, 2013 - 21:52

    I truly believe that staff are overwhelmed at times. There are not enough hours in the day to care for those that need it the most. There are weeks we all just want to have a simple meal ..but not spagettios. Maybe more Volunteers to help when families are just not able to be there every day, would help.

  • Paul
    October 20, 2013 - 19:47

    It is ridiculous how our mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters that where once productive members of our society gets their dignity slowly taken away from them in our health care system. These people deserve respect and dignity in this time in their lives but how health care system just takes it away from them. I am going through the same thing with my father in the hospital. He has been in the hospital for over two months waiting for a bed in a nursing home and he is not the only one. All of the things that I have been reading in these articles are also happening in the hospital. They took his dignity and made him embarrassed the day they made him wear a diaper not that he needed one but just in case. My father was always a strong and proud man but they changed all this with one action.

    • Jesse
      October 23, 2013 - 12:34

      Why does it sound like all of the negative commentary is coming from family members and not from the residents themselves? Don't you think we should ask them? If their dignity and opinions are so important, then why are you speaking on their behalf? I think this is primarily your perception of the care your family is getting and not a true representation of its quality. People in the healthcare system are always doing their utmost to conserve the dignity of their patients. Your father would not have been "made" to wear a diaper, and would almost definitely have had an informs voice in that decision. Doctors are trained extremely in patient autonomy. Perhaps your frustrations lie elsewhere and not with the people charged with and performing great duties.

  • con power
    October 20, 2013 - 08:03

    I live in a Ltc in Ontario.We get two showers a week .This is the law.We have five regular sections and one lock down .Their are 168 residents living here.We have 3 psw and one nurse for each 29 people. the lock has more.

  • CS
    October 19, 2013 - 17:41

    Love the picture and would like to know who took it because the unit my family member is on does not have a table setting like the one shown in the picture. It would be an ideal table setting! Reality is meals are service on cafeteria trays and while the meal are on real plates (unless the dishwasher breaks and then its served on plastic disposable plates). Tea/coffee, however, are never served in glass cups and saucers but plastic reusable cups. I also don't see the juice containers that are given to residents. All condiments like sugar and milk are included as packets on the trays.