By Vickie Kaminski
Special to The Telegram
There has been a lot of media attention recently regarding concerns raised by family members of three residents currently living at the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex.
In these sensationalized stories, innuendo has loomed large.
Facts are often distorted and are largely unbalanced in the reports.
Unfortunately, I cannot respond to those three specific resident stories. Due to the Personal Health Information Act (PHIA), as the custodians of their information, we are unable to publicly discuss any of their information in an effort to respond to the concerns raised in the media.
I can discuss publicly what the policies, procedures and day-to-day operations of the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex entail.
Despite the fact that Eastern Health has provided information for the articles, there has not been a balanced approach to the reporting.
As such, I had asked to meet with the reporter and an editor to discuss the issue in an attempt to present a more balanced approach to the reporting. That meeting was scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday at The Telegram.
However, upon reading the column by Brian Jones that morning, I decided to cancel that meeting. It was quite clear to me that no matter what I said to the reporter and editor, Eastern Health is not going to get a fair hearing on this issue.
The Telegram obviously has an agenda — and nothing I could say could sway that. I know quite well the media will always have the last word.
So to the point, let me firstly say, I have the utmost confidence and respect for all the staff who work in our long-term care facilities. They come in to work every day with the care of the resident and their family uppermost on their mind.
These residents usually stay for long periods of time and the facility becomes their home; the staff become like family. When something bad happens to one of our residents, our employees share in the grief, sadness and pain with the rest of the family members.
So to suggest or imply that staff at Eastern Health’s long-term care facilities would wilfully allow any resident to languish in bed until his/her skin broke down into a pressure ulcer, or to slowly starve to death, or to deteriorate physically or mentally without trying everything possible to prevent it, is shameful and grossly inaccurate.
The three stories recently told are not unknown to us. We have and will continue to work with the families and those residents to deal with issues and concerns and attempt to resolve any problem.
What hasn’t been heard are the stories of hundreds of satisfied residents and family members that we see and hear from every day.
In fact, some of them have told us they have tried to tell their stories to the media, but no one seems interested. I guess those kinds of stories don’t sell newspapers or increase ratings.
So here are some facts.
Yes, we offer spaghettios to our residents. That is a meal they can choose — once every three weeks. If they do not want that, they can choose a soup and sandwich combo or some other menu offering included in a three-week meal plan that is based on Canada’s Food Guide to ensure there is a balanced diet for our residents.
But many of our residents like canned pasta. Many of them grew old in the community eating it over toast for a meal, just like they ate bologna, canned pork and beans, and Jigg’s dinner. So to deny them the option when they are in their new home — a long-term care facility — would be unreasonable.
Our residents are bathed every day. Because of their significant mobility issues, many of them are bathed at their bedside or in their beds. Tub baths usually occur once a week. They are not left for days at a time without being bathed, as was recently suggested in the column by Brian Jones.
Unfortunately, sometimes a resident will develop a severe pressure ulcer despite our best efforts.
However, open wounds are rare and, in fact, there is only one resident at the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex at the moment with that type of pressure ulcer. These are painful, they require a lot of time and attention to get them healed and our employees work diligently to prevent these from occurring.
As I stated, these can occur despite all our best efforts and considering the medical condition of the resident. When they do occur, we work just as hard to get them healed and to relieve the resident’s pain and discomfort.
That’s not to say we don’t have issues that need to be addressed.
Currently, we do have staff challenges as a direct result of a shortage of relief/temporary call-in staff.
In a 24/7 operation, in addition to the full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, there is a requirement to have a pool of temporary relief and casual staff to support the operation when permanent staff are unavailable for a number of reasons, including annual leave, long-term leave such as maternity leave and daily sick calls.
There is no health organization anywhere that has permanent staff in place to cover off all contingencies for when staff are unavailable for work — particularly to address short-term leave such as daily sick calls.
That is why Eastern Health requires a pool of people that it can call into work — sometimes on a moment’s notice — not unlike other 24/7 health-care organizations.
We have occasions when we do not have enough relief staff to cover all the sick calls that might occur. When that happens, and employees have to work short, we re-organize the work routines for that shift.
It might mean that a resident is later getting their bath, or later getting in or out of bed. It does not mean that residents are neglected for that shift.
And we are now focused on finding a solution to our shortage of relief staff.
Occasionally, equipment like tubs break down. It can take a few days to get the equipment repaired. It doesn’t mean residents are allowed to go without personal hygiene being maintained. It means we continue with their usual bed baths until the tub is fixed.
I hope you realize I am not being defensive here. I am, however, defending the excellent care given to all our patients, clients and residents by a very dedicated and excellent staff at eastern Health.
Because of how they have been portrayed by The Telegram, I made a visit to the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex on Thursday.
I met with several small groups of frontline employees and managers. I wanted them to know that they had my support and that of the board of trustees, the executive management committee and, indeed, the entire family within Eastern Health.
I also want to express gratitude to the family members of many of our residents who are reaching out to our employees to commend them for the care they are providing to their loved one. I trust you know that this means a lot to them.
For those of you who are reading this, I would ask that you balance what you read and hear with what you know.
Vickie Kaminski is the president and CEO of Eastern Health.