Staffing too low - Saskatchewan registered nurse expresses concerns about government's move to eliminate minimum staffing standards and care hours in long-term care

BY CATHARINE MAKELKI, THE STARPHOENIX

The community of l'Isle-Verte in Quebec gathered recently to remember the more than 30 residents who lost their lives in a fire that broke out in a nursing home.

This tragedy should make us all reflect on the conditions of care for our seniors. The lack of sprinklers in the Quebec facility clearly played a major role, but many people were shocked to discover that a long-term care facility with more than 50 residents had only two staff persons on the night shift. What people in Saskatchewan may not know is that this level of staffing is quite common in this province, too.

I am a registered nurse who works in a long-term care facility. My colleagues and I are routinely responsible to the care for 35 elderly and vulnerable residents with serious medical conditions. Add to this the common practice of not replacing staff who call in sick, and this number can easily rise to 100 on many shifts.

My experience tells me that adequate and appropriate staffing is the key to ensuring high quality and safe care for residents. It can save lives. Reams of research support this.

For this reason, we should all be very concerned about the Saskatchewan government's move to eliminate minimum staffing standards and care hours in our long-term care facilities, and about the pressures put on staff continually to do more with less at the expense of residents.

Catharine Makelki

Regina