Staffing for new long-term care facility questioned

Eastern Health says province will pay for extra nurses

Bonnie Belec bbelec@thetelegram.com
Published on October 26, 2013
Eastern Health’s new long-term care facility is located in the east end of St. John’s.
— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram

The son of a man who lives at the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex says he was told the current staffing ratio at the long-term care facility will be maintained in a new facility when it opens next summer.

But Jason Dawe wonders if the resident-to-staff level will be enough.

“There’s 375 residents at Hoyles and a maximum of 120 staff. There’s no way people there can keep up the pace in that kind of environment without breaking,” he told The Telegram Friday.

He said it takes two people to get his father out of bed, washed and dressed, and there are 30 other people on the wing — requiring various levels of care — waiting for the same kind of help. Few of them are able to get up and walk to the lunch room on their own, he said.

Add to that the increase of residents at the new facility, he said.

“I am saying that a ratio of 2.9 (residents) to one (staff) is certainly good looking on paper. I just don’t see that it’s a great idea,” Dawe said.

“They are caring for people with minimal staff. They probably would have enough under ideal conditions, but the second someone twists an ankle that ratio is gone in the toilet,” he said.

Dawe suggested the ratio should be lower and for Eastern Health to absorb the extra costs for the protection of those in long-term care.

In an emailed statement to The Telegram Friday, Eastern Health said it has received funding from the provincial government to provide nursing staff for the increase in the number of residents who will reside at the new long-term care facility.

Eastern Health and Hoyles-Escasoni administration have been holding information sessions for family members to help answer questions about the move to the new $150-million facility on Newfoundland Drive in St. John’s.

It will have the capacity for 461 beds. The Hoyles-Escasoni Complex has 375.

JJ Dray’s mother is a resident of Hoyles and attended a meeting Oct. 10 — not the same one as Dawe.

He said while the meeting was informative, providing details about such things as the layout of units, amenities, the process by which the residents were going to be moved, representatives didn’t address concerns about staffing levels.

“A gentleman asked a question about staffing in the new facility — something along the lines of ‘if there are staffing issues currently at Hoyles-Escasoni, what is Eastern Health going to do to help mitigate this issue in the new home, given there are 80-90 additional beds?’” recalled Dray.

“The moderator replied this wasn’t the time or place to have this discussion, and that it would happen at a later date. I interjected and said that I felt it was a pertinent issue, given this meeting was regarding the new home, and that proper staffing was an issue of concern for both residents and their families,” he said.

Dray said they repeated the meeting wasn’t the time or place to discuss it, and they carried on with the presentation.

“It was quite obvious to me this was a discussion they were not going to engage in,” he said.

 During the past few weeks there have been many stories written about staffing issues and how families of residents say it is affecting patient care at the Hoyles-Escasoni Complex.  

Stories have centred around family members, residents and workers who have expressed concerns about such issues as medications, the level of patient care, nutrition and under staffing.

The stories first came about when Eastern Health announced it had saved $22.7 million and reduced 230 full-time equivalents positions as of June 30 through operational improvement initiatives launched in May 2012.

In response to those stories, Eastern Health issued a statement Oct. 4 in which CEO Vickie Kaminski said, “When I announced our operational improvement initiatives I clearly stated at that time these initiatives would not have any impact on the quality and safety of patient, resident and client care. I believe we are achieving that objective.”

On Monday The Telegram obtained a memo written by the executive director of Glenbrook Lodge, Maj. Rex Colbourne, warning family members about the possible side-effects of staff shortages at that long-term care facility in St. John’s.

Eastern Health is continuing with initiatives which aim to save $43 million and reduce 550 full-time equivalent positions over two years.

Kaminski and Health Minister Susan Sullivan said staffing issues raised by family members, residents and unions are not as a result of this initiative.

However, they both acknowledge Eastern Health has “been experiencing a challenge recently in ensuring that we do have the required number of staff on a shift due to leave and recruitment issues which we are trying to address.”

Alice Kennedy, Eastern Health’s vice-president of long-term care, told The Telegram recently plans are in place to try to recruit more staff for the new facility.

“We are working on strategies to try to increase the number of people that are being trained and that is being done in consultation with education organizations and government, because we need — obviously if we are going to have more beds we’ll need more staff to operate those beds so we are certainly planning to try to, and looking at other alternatives, increase the number of staff to operate new beds,” she said.

Kennedy said Hoyles-Escasoni’s permanent, full-time positions are filled however, getting enough relief staff is challenging.

“But we are certainly working to hire more relief staff and we do have a significant number of relief staff already, but unfortunately we don’t have enough to meet the demands when we have high rates of absenteeism and leave,” she said.

The new long-term care facility  will consist of four buildings — two residential, which will also be equipped to provide extra space for recreation therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and spirituality; a building for support services, such as dietary, laundry, infrastructure support, health technology and data management and a utility building.

It is in the process of being built on 17.8 acres of land, and will encompass about 38,000 square metres.

bbelec@thetelegram.com