Personal Injury

Canadian nursing shortage leads to resident neglect

Serious staff shortages at nursing homes in Alberta, Canada, are contributing to resident neglect according to provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) reports in the Edmonton Sun. Last week, the party released 300 reports from unionized workers that allege that staff is so overworked at homes there that they routinely do not feed, bathe, turn or take residents to the bathroom, ultimately denying them their dignity. The report warned that seniors in long-term care were treated like “castaways” and left by staff unattended for hours.

The NDP reports were created by a union representing health-care workers. Those producing the report recorded each time one of the five facilities surveyed were short-staffed. Staffing levels at nursing homes in Alberta were reportedly as low as two aides per 79 residents. NPD alerted an assistant deputy minister of health last fall and recommended staffing levels be legislated at one aide per five residents.

A spokesperson for the health ministry says that efforts have been made to address the staffing shortages at area nursing homes, including increasing funding in each of the past three years so that nursing homes could hire more employees. Determining effective patient-to-staff ratios, he said, should be well thought out and allow for flexibility rather than be randomly selected.

Canada’s nursing shortage has been an issue for years, prompting a series about “Failed Cure” in The Star. According to the 2008 report, as many as 20,000 nurses were needed in Canada and 40 percent of the country’s 250,000 nurses were poised to retire within the next five years. That report showed Canadian nurses working 18 million hours of overtime each year – the equivalent of 10,000 full-time jobs.