Ontario has yet to deliver on nursing home staffing standards

In today’s Toronto Star Christina Bisanz, chief executive of the Ontario Long Term Care Association – which primarily represents for-profit nursing homes – said Ontario leads most provinces in improving the quality of long term care thanks to new legislation aimed at making care uniform. Bisanz says that includes legislated minimum staffing levels. Oh yeah? That would be news to us.

For some time OPSEU has been among those calling for a minimum staffing standard of at least 3.5 hours of direct care per resident per day based on average acuity.

The call for 3.5 hours was recently reinforced by a new report from the Institute for Research on Public Policy. The IRPP report notes there is a significant quality gap between for-profit and not-for-profit long term care homes.

The report’s authors, Magaret McGregor and Lisa Ronald, write in Monday’s Globe & Mail: “We have reviewed Canadian and U.S. research evidence on the link between ownership and care quality and concluded the contracting out care to private, for-profit facilities is likely to result in inferior care compared to the care delivered in public and non-profit facilities.”

The authors say studies have consistently found for-profits have lower nurse staffing levels compared to their not-for-profit counterparts. If we had a minimum standard of care that was applicable across the province, then Bisanz might begin to have a point.

The OLTCA has in the past called for a minimum of three hours of care per resident per day. In 2008 they were quick to point out that Ontario facilities offer residents about 2.6 hours of care per day, while in the rest of the country that average varies between three and 3.5 hours of daily care.

Did the OLTCA actually forget the Ontario government has still failed to deliver on what everyone from the Ontario Mental Health Association to the Ontario Health Coalition has been asking for – a minimum staffing standard that reflects the needs of Ontario’s long term care residents?

To read McGregor and Ronald’s full study, go to


2 responses to “Ontario has yet to deliver on nursing home staffing standards

  1. The government has been promising 3.5 hours of care per day for some time now. Two elections ago, Dalton McGuinty used that in his campaign. Yes, I agree it costs money, however, with the increase in levels of acuity among today’s residents, the number of hours needed to care for the ‘heavier’ care residents needs to be improved. So many staff in homes cut corners where they can. This could be taking some time from one to accommodate another. All too often, staff do not take their allotted breaks on time, or at all. This will lead to tired and sore bodies. A healthy staff is happy staff.

    These staff members for the most part love their job. They are not there for the wages. Any where else, working that hard with inanimate objects or on a line, you’d be making far more. Staff are there for the residents.

    Not-for-profit may give better care in some people’s opinion but this too is changing. Administration seem to forget their nursing background and now put more value on the business aspect. It is a business – but a people business. Why is it that administration and management wages come out of the nursing envelope? Maybe if the nursing envelope went to nursing care, then maybe we could meet everyone of the residents’ needs and wants!

    The government needs to recognize this. Periodic inspections or looking at the new charting systems (RAI MDS) isn’t enough. The time and money spent on the charting has got ridiculous. The people who work the front lines ‘bust their butts’ to make sure the residents are cared for.

    We all need to open our eyes and question things that do not look right. If you are visiting someone in a long term care facility or retirement home, talk to your friend, their family or POA. Don’t be afraid to ask and by all means, contact your MPP and DEMAND CARE STANDARDS.

  2. Great Joan! Most everything comes out of the nursing envelope. That surely doesn’t leave much money for direct care. The residents are now coming in much heavier and hard to handle. We need to open eyes, a lot of our elderly are lying in hospital beds day after day waiting for a long term care bed. MPPs better watch out you could be one.

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