The Ontario Nurses Association (ONA) has filed its official report to the Ontario COVID-19 Long-Term Care Commission with several recommendations calling on the provincial government to take action to improve the safety and care of residents.
The ONA also wants legislative changes to protect the workers who care for patients in these homes.
The Ontario COVID-19 Long-Term Care Commission has held public hearings and gathered evidence on the condition of long-term care homes since the commission was created last summer. The commission is now in the drafting phase of the report and is expected to table its first report on April 30, in a month’s time.
As expected, the ONA report is replete with examples of poorly managed homes, overworked staff, and residents suffering and dying as a result.
The report is divided into four sub-reports; ONA survey results; ONA final submissions and recommendations, Voices of Ontario’s Long-Term Care Nurses and Fatal Choices, COVID-19 Nursing and the tragedy of long-term care.
In the final recommendations report, there are 105 recommendations to the commission that cover all topics of provincial funding, the physical structure of homes where shared bedrooms and shared bathrooms have been questioned, as well as the need to have more qualified medical personnel (nursing care). ) staff members at all times.
Staffing is a major concern for ONA, and one of the recommendations was not only to have enough staff mandated to cover 4.1 hours of direct care per patient per day, but also to include 20 % of registered nurses, 25% of licensed practical nurses and 55% of personal support workers.
In addition to the many recommendations of a medical nature, the ONA also believes that health and safety at work must be taken into account. This includes the fact that the Ministry of Labor must deploy inspectors to long-term care homes to ensure homes are health and safety prepared to respond to an outbreak.
Another recommendation called on the Ministry of Labor to conduct “a proactive inspection campaign in long-term care homes, which would include unannounced inspections.”
Households would also be required to demonstrate that they have sufficient PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and ensure that all staff are trained in the correct use of PPE. Another recommendation is that if an employee requests PPE and is denied that equipment, the employee would have the right to refuse to work.
Better communication in the event of a pandemic was also recommended, which included immediately notifying all staff when an employee or patient tests positive for the virus. This would allow for better infection prevention and control measures. Patients who test positive would be required to wear a bracelet so that if that patient wanders home, everyone would know.
The last two recommendations aim to improve the working conditions of employees.
One called for mental health supports to be provided to employees experiencing a pandemic for up to two years. The ONA recommends that the WSIB be mandated to provide support for any mental health problem or injury and that it be classified as a workplace injury.
The final recommendation is that nurses who have worked in a long-term care home who have suffered an outbreak should be entitled to be compensated with a set amount of damages for mental distress / post-traumatic stress disorder. .
The amount of damage would be higher for those who contracted COVID-19 in the workplace, and even higher for those who were hospitalized.
The ONA report was submitted to the LTC Commission on March 22 with a comment from the ONA president that she hopes the province takes note of nurses’ concerns, unlike the follow-up to the SARS outbreak where “The voice of ONA has been ignored”.