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Lethbridge Plan Would Shuffle Vulnerable Long-term Care Residents off to Lower Standards of Care

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August 4, 2005

A new plan to shuffle residents in the St. Michaels auxiliary hospital in Lethbridge to a new “designated assisted living” facility is a prime example of cuts in standards and services in long-term care says the United Nurses of Alberta.

“This is a prime example of the huge cuts in services that has caused the crisis and horror stories in Alberta’s long-term care system,” says United Nurses of Alberta Vice President Bev Dick.

“The residents at St. Michaels are in an approved hospital because they need a high level of nursing care,” she says. “Now they will be shuffled off to designated assisted living with no registered nursing care.”

St. Michaels Health Centre currently has 200 auxiliary hospital patients and the plan is to move them to a new assisted living facility or to other nursing homes. However, the two licensed nursing homes in Lethbridge have only 12 vacancies between them.

“This is just the latest instance of long-term care residents switching to assisted living where there is no on-site professional nursing care,” Bev Dick points out. “The Auditor General Fred Dunn pointed out in his report that inadequate staffing is one of the main problems creating the scandalous conditions.”

“Adequate Registered nurse staffing is critical to protecting residents and ensuring safe care,” Bev Dick says.

“The MLA Task Force looking into the long-term care crisis, should look at this happening right now, even as they are considering what the standards should be, these vulnerable residents will see their level of care drastically cut.”

UNA made a presentation to the MLA Task Force in Edmonton last week.

“It is time to reverse the crisis in continuing care – by requiring measurable, clear standards for reasonable levels of qualified staffing, including staffing by Registered Nurses,” Bev Dick told the MLAs.

Two years ago, nurses at the Lethbridge facility successfully got a court injunction preventing St. Michaels from laying off nurses.

“Our nurses were concerned that St. Michaels was risking patient care by cutting nursing staff,” Bev Dick noted.

The court decision prevented the layoffs pending an arbitration decision on the staffing levels. The arbitration panel finally ruled that as an approved hospital, St. Michael’s did not have to meet the staffing regulations under the Nursing Homes Act.

“St. Michaels was getting around the minimal standards in place under the Nursing Homes Act. Switching to designated living is another way to do that,” Bev Dick noted.

Courtesy The United Nurses of Alberta