OPEN OPINION: Transformative culture change in long-term care homes – what is happening now?

Ontario’s Long-term Care COVID-19 Commission Report, published on April 30th, made 85 recommendations needed to keep residents and staff safe in future viral outbreaks. To date, the Provincial Government has yet to respond.

Prior to April 30th, the government announced some measures to be implemented. More staff will be hired and the amount of time PSWs spend with each resident daily will be increased, over a period of 3 years, to 4 hours, finally achieving the full 4 hours by 2024.  By then, the complexity of resident care needs could be such that 4 hours of direct care may not be enough to maintain their physical and emotional needs. The government also announced that they have been working to ensure that there is air conditioning in all long-term care homes. The issue here is that the air conditioning is not necessarily in the resident’s room but rather in a common room on the unit. I wonder how government officials would have fared during the recent heat wave if they did not have air conditioning in their bedrooms!

Will these measures fix a broken system? The commissioners recognized in their Report that a new way of thinking about how long-term care is delivered needs to occur. “There needs to be a transformation to a person-centred care model, which motivates different behaviours and rewards innovation that leads to better outcomes for residents and staff.” 

Transformative culture change is already occurring in more than 11 long-term care homes in Ontario. There is no need to re-invent the wheel! These homes are demonstrating, through their innovative model of care, that they have fewer resident falls/trips to hospital, a decreased use of antipsychotic medication and diet supplements, increased social activity among residents and, in general, happier staff, residents and their families. They all fared well through COVID-19 and the costs to operate their model of care, after the initial period of implementation, were recovered in approximately 18 months!

The commissioners listened to over 700 people and many different organizations and made recommendations that will keep our seniors safe while enjoying a quality of life. Now it is up to the government to act! Let us hope that this is not another Report that sits on the shelf while more tragedies occur in long-term care homes. You can help by contacting your MPP and advocate that the 85 recommendations be enacted and that transformative culture change to a model of person-centered care needs to occur in our long-term care homes.

Susan Sheffield
Member, C.A.R.P. Ottawa Advocacy Group on Long-Term Care 


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