The report released today by the Canadian Armed Forces regarding the conditions in five Ontario long term care (LTC) facilities calls attention to issues that nurses have been raising alarm about for years. As the professional association representing Ontario’s 45,000 Registered Practical Nurses, who form the majority of the nursing professionals in LTC, the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario (WeRPN) was deeply distressed and concerned by the report’s alarming observations.
“We’ve seen deep cracks in the foundation of our LTC system for years” said Dianne Martin, CEO of WeRPN. “Many of these issues were exposed during the 2018 Public Inquiry and now, under the pressure of this global pandemic, we’re seeing those cracks break wide-open with disastrous consequences.”
The findings underscore many concerns that nurses raised over the last several years and have further called attention to during the pandemic:
- Challenges with recruitment and retention of health professionals to ensure continuity of care
- Lack of appropriate staffing levels to ensure the safety and emotional well-being of residents
- Limited access to appropriate personal protective equipment
- Absence of proper training for all staff on infection control protocols
More recently, nurses have reported concern about calling attention to troubling practices in their facilities due to fear of reprisals from their employers.
WeRPN encourages the government to take swift, immediate action to address these findings outlineds in the report. While we support the government’s plans to launch a Commission into LTC, more action must be taken in the near term to protect residents. On a priority basis, we urge the government to deploy additional staff to facilities at highest risk, ensure access to appropriate PPE and immediately take steps to ensure all staff are adequately trained on infection prevention and control measures.
“What’s absolutely clear is that our LTC system is in crisis and we need to take action now to fix it” continued Martin. “Lives are at stake and these residents don’t have time to wait.”