By Mickey Djuric, The Moose Jaw Times Herald, April 8 2015
Two months before the senior at Providence Place died from ingesting a detergent pod, the SEIU-West union president sent a letter to the long-term care facility raising concerns about short staffing.
“We explained about the hazards presented to residents and workers when unsafe staffing levels are chronic,” said Barbara Cape, president of SEIU-West, who represents the front-line staff at the facility.
The letter was sent to every board member of Providence Place, including CEO Paul Nyhof and the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR).
“We received a copy of the letter and we did discuss its contents with the CEO and board of Providence Place in late February,” said Stuart Cunningham, VP of Human Resources for the FHHR. “We were under the impression that he (Nyhof) would respond and he did respond directly to SEIU, but I can’t confirm that.”
According to Cape, no one responded to her concerns. The Times-Herald attempted to contact Nyhof but didn’t receive comment by press time.
Cape added that staff members at Providence Place are being asked to work 12 and 16 hour shifts.
Staff members who call in sick or don’t show up aren’t replaced, which is known as short shifting, a practice Providence Place adheres by. Because of short shifting, one staff member was left to care for 32 residents during a night shift, said Cape.
“One of the practices in healthcare is that you need to have two people at all times to do transfers, lifts, or repositions. If you’re not replacing one absent person on a night shift or evening shift, how do you have enough people to provide that care?” asks Cape.
This results in a delay in bathing and feeding times. Beds sometimes go unmade and activities and recreational therapy provided to residents gets impacted.
“The concern I have is that we will continue to hear about these unfortunate deaths,” said Cape. “But at what point do we say it’s enough?”
Last week, the Government of Saskatchewan stated funding to Providence Place has increased by 46 per cent since 2007, including a nine per cent increase in staffing. However, Cape says that’s over an eight-year period and it hasn’t alleviated understaffing and doesn’t include the “much needed front-line staff.”
In 2013, the FHHR was given an opportunity to receive more funding from the ‘Urgent Action Fund’ for Providence Place but the facility wasn’t included in the application, alleges Cape.
“It is especially disconcerting to learn that the FHHR was one of few regions in Saskatchewan that did not ask for funding towards its staffing levels in 2013. At the same time SEIU-West was ringing alarms about unsafe staffing levels within the health region,” said Cape.
“It’s important not because we lost a senior in one of our facilities…but because it could have been avoided and we’ve been reaching out talking about staffing levels. We want to work on that solution.”
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