Woman worried about safety at long-term care home

Bonnie Belec
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Says her mother has fallen several times at Glenbrook Lodge in St. John’s

A woman whose mother is in long-term care in St. John’s says the 63-year-old isn’t being watched carefully enough.

She said her mother, who resides at Glenbrook Lodge on Torbay Road, has fallen about five times in the last three or four months and “if there was more attention given to people like her, and their surroundings, I think the rate would be less.”

“My mother also had an aliment that didn’t seem to be getting better. When I questioned it, the response was, ‘Oh, I thought so-and-so looked after it.’ The issue would be addressed, then I would notice the bandage wasn’t changed for a few days, so I would ask about it again and would get a response, ‘I didn't know there was an ailment,’” said Sam, who asked that her real name not be published.

Sam’s mother suffers from de­mentia and other medical problems. She said there’s a breakdown in communications between staff, who are so busy they don’t know if they’re coming or going, and that is affecting patient care.

On Monday, The Telegram ob­tain­ed a memo sent to family members with loved ones at Glenbrook Lodge in which they are  warned about the possible side-effects of staff shortages.

“Glenbrook Lodge is currently facing staffing challenges. As a result there are some days when we find ourselves working short on a particular unit and we may have to adjust the delivery of care to our residents,” says a memo to families from Maj. Rex Colbourne.

“As well, we may have to cancel non-urgent appointments needing escorts if family members are not available to assist,” says the document.

When The Telegram broke the story Monday, Colbourne — Glenbrook’s executive director — referred questions to Eastern Health.

Eastern Health, however, is refusing to answer questions regarding long-term care in St. John’s. Thursday was no different.

Glenbrook isn’t the first long-term care facility in St. John’s to undergo criticism in recent weeks regarding staff shortages. Some residents, and their family members, have said shortages are also affecting patient care at the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex.

Stories have centred around  concerns about such issues as medication, the level of patient care, nutrition and understaffing.

Eastern Health has announced it saved $22.7 million and reduced 230 full-time equivalent positions as of June 30 through operational improvement initiatives launched in May 2012.

Sam said while she’s glad Colbourne has taken an upfront approach in addressing the staffing shortages, it’s nothing new. She said  family members have had to attend  doctor appointments with their loved ones in the past or reschedule if staff couldn’t attend.

“There is just not enough staff. They have two recreation staff for the whole building, (and) very little volunteers. There is no one to sit and comfort a resident when they’re upset,” she said.

“The personal care attendants are great — most of them. They don’t stop. The other day (Mom) really had to go to the bathroom so I buzzed the staff and his response was, ‘Well, can she wait until after dinner?’ He wasn’t being rude. The staff was just busy assisting others with their dinner and there was no one to help us,” Sam said.

MHA Andrew Parsons, the Liberals’ health critic, says it goes beyond coincidence that at the same time Eastern Health announces it is saving millions of dollars in long-term care, facilties are telling family members they are struggling with staff shortages and families are complaining about patient care.

“I know they’re making cuts, but don’t tell me it is not going to have an impact on patient care. You can’t cut 550 positions and not have an effect on patient care,” said the MHA for Burgeo-La Poile.

Eastern Health’s goal to reduce 550 full-time equivalent positions was announced as part of the operational review in 2012.

MHA Gerry Rogers, health critic for the NDP, said the health system is under incredible stress and the governing PCs aren’t prepared for what’s happening.

“Seniors have indicated to us most want to live at home, but in order to age in place they need support staff and reliable home care, and we don’t have that,” Rogers said.

“We have a housing crisis. We don’t have a program to help with the high cost of rent. We don’t have enough long-term care beds. We have seniors in hospital beds waiting for long-term care beds. This government has never prepared properly for the growing population of seniors,” she said.

Rogers, the MHA for St. John’s Centre, said she has been told that due to staffing shortages, people aren’t getting enough physiotherapy, and in one case a woman told her that if a staff member calls in sick on any given day she’s lucky if she gets out of bed in 24 hours.

“We know there have been cutbacks. We can’t give better and better care by cutting back more and more, and we can’t just warehouse our seniors. Not getting out of bed, no one to help get you washed, that is warehousing, not good comprehensive care,” she said.

Sam agrees.

She said some residents of Glenbrook, and other long-term care homes, spend too much time in their rooms, with little or no recreation or stimulation.

“They are just there. If I could get 18  hours of home care a day for my mother, she would be home.”

bbelec@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Hoyles-Escasoni Complex, NDP

Geographic location: Glenbrook, Torbay Road

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Recent comments

  • Mary Hammond
    October 25, 2013 - 10:39

    For what we pay ($2,800.00) a month for our Loved Ones to have proper care and nourishment the so called 'Government' should be ashamed of the care and lack of responsibility it provides to these nursing homes!! Why so many cutbacks? I'm sure there are lots of people would love to have a decent paying job attending to seniors ? Note I stated 'decent pay' not minimum wage?? Time to 'Hire' some staff !!!!!!

  • Matt
    October 25, 2013 - 08:09

    The Telegram sure is getting a lot of mileage out of this story.

  • Patrick
    October 25, 2013 - 06:29

    I agree with Sam...Health Care has gone down the tubes....with no one to blame but Government!I have seen first hand the issues she is talking about....absolutely shameful on this PC Government

  • dave
    October 25, 2013 - 06:15

    Maybe she should take her Mother home with her and find her own solution to her care problems. That's part of the trouble. Families aren't willing to care for their own, they would just rather dump them into publically funded facilities where they are cared for by strangers, wash their hands of their loved ones, and then complain abut the care they are receiving. Maybe they could create some schedule whereby the family go into the home on a regular schedule to sit with and watch the woman. If every residents' family did this, that would improve the care, and insure the safety of the residents.