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Revera could lay off PSWs and RPNs at Hallowell House despite pandemic

By Sue Capon
The sound of horns blaring in support of workers holding an information picket near Hallowell House nursing home Monday was almost deafening at times, as they stood in blazing heat and humidity protesting expected layoffs in the pipeline.

Staff hailed as heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic for working above and beyond the call of duty are facing the possibility of unemployment and fear what a fourth wave may mean for residents, families and co-workers.

The union states it learned two months ago that seven full-time personal support workers (PSWs) and three full-time registered practical nurses could be cut from the 60-member staff. The cuts, said the local union president, would follow a provincial mandate reducing residents in ward rooms to two, from four.

“We have been discussing what future staff schedules would look like if the MLTC (Ministry Long-Term Care) chooses to adjust funding to reflect our actual resident count of 64. Some shifts may change, but we do not want to lay people off,” stated Larry Roberts, Director of Communications for Revera.

Kathleen Brooks, President of Unifor Local 8300, said “They believe that by losing about 30 residents in the change to ward rooms, they should decrease staff as they will be funded for fewer people. We’re saying you’re then scheduling a skeleton crew and you’re putting everybody in danger.”

County resident Janet Elson, essential caregiver for her 91-year-old mom Ann, supports the workers on the line and the management in the nursing home. Preferring an end to for-profit long-term care, she puts the responsibility squarely on Hallowell House’s operator, Revera, which is the second-largest personal care home operator in the country. It is owned by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board.

“I don’t think these staff are surplus to the needs of the residents. I think they are surplus to the needs of Revera’s bottom line,” said Elson. “I think the decision makers both in Revera and in government need to be better informed. I challenge them to spend a week shadowing or doing any of these jobs while providing the level of care residents need and deserve; then see what they think about the hours, the pay and the tools and time given to complete their tasks.”

Elson notes she has often observed people working short-staffed at Hallowell House, attempting to provide the best level of care they can in the circumstances. She wonders at what point it becomes a safety issue, noting it already affects the quality of life for her mom in her final years.

“Add COVID into the mix and you’ve got a sure fire recipe for burn out. How on earth does Revera think this will not affect resident care? I can only conclude they do know, but it is not their priority.”

Brooks said the workers “are willing to stand out here from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on their day off, or after their shifts, in a really hot week, until Revera gets the message. These men and women are fighting for residents, and fighting for themselves. It absolutely affects the care of the residents.”

Brooks says “the two bed maximum is a great thing for the safety of the residents, and definitely for the people who work there,” noting there are about 60 staff at Hallowell (approximately 50/50 part and full-time), but while Revera’s plan is to layoff the 10 positions, it will still employ contracted out workers.

“They’ve had a sign up on the lawn here since COVID began, looking for help, as well as help wanted postings on the Revera website. This is not a new problem. We have always known that healthcare needs more staff on the floor – even before COVID started.”

Brooks said the union has provided Revera recommendations to ward off the layoffs, including looking at laying off one assistant management position, instead of the 10 jobs.

“The mangers are paid out of the nursing envelope and that’s a large chunk of money that will go a long way to keep staff on the floor,” said Brooks. “We also want to see them implement the four hours of care now which is supposed to come in 2025 and we’ve asked them to allow our workers to do the jobs that are currently contracted out for work such as screening and restorative care (such as physio).

“The community by and large does not know what the layoffs mean. It means those residents are going to have less care than they have now. For example, the staff have six minutes in the morning to get a resident up, washed, dressed, teeth brushed, hair combed; some wear makeup, some wear jewellery, the men shaved, and down to the dining room.

“We have seen on a night shift that if somebody calls in, they could be down to two PSWs for 98 residents and one RN. Now there’s 60 residents but that is still dangerous… All it takes is for one person to fall and that nurse will be with that resident now for the next couple of hours. The RNs and RPNs are also the only people qualified to give meds.”

With COVID, she adds, everybody knows the nurses and PSWs have much bigger jobs, with fewer people.

“Have they learned nothing? Luckily Hallowell did not have a big outbreak but the fourth COVID wave hasn’t hit yet. If they lay 10 people right off that schedule and they have an outbreak, now what? They would be in severe trouble and have to pull in more contract people – of which agency wages are astronomical as the company pays their employees mileage as they’re usually from another city, hotel and feed them, all when we have people here who want to work.”

“If Hallowell has to shut down again in a fourth wave, families won’t be able to come in to help their loved ones. They need to be informed. They need to be involved and tell Revera they are not happy.

“I’m happy to be here (from Kingston) to support them, as is our entire local (stretching from Ottawa to Belleville). If need be, I will call in the other unions to come out and give us a hand.”

Concerns for resident care, and employment of the people who provide that care is mired in decades of underfunding, understaffing, part-time work and a focus on profits which health organizations and unions say have eroded Ontario’s long-term care system.

Though this is the first information picket the local union president can recall at Hallowell House, Brooks recalls being involved in 1996 during the ‘Dignity and Justice’ campaign following the Harris government repeal of the standards of care legislation.

The Ontario Health Coalition has released a report of a recent survey completed anonymously by front-line workers within long-term care workplaces in the Kawartha Lakes-Peterborough-Northumberland regions. In it, 70 per cent of respondents noted staff levels at their workplaces have not returned to pre-COVID levels and 76 per cent stated they are working short-staffed daily.

Seventy per cent of respondents said the biggest issue to be resolved at their workplaces is increased staffing; followed by better management (29 per cent) and more money (21 per cent).

The Ontario Health Coalition is planning a mass protest ‘Reject Neglect – Fix LTC now!’ for the opening of the legislature Monday, Sept. 13 at noon at Queen’s Park, and in Thunder bay and Ottawa.

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    In my mind nothing is more important to people than healthcare and education. Believe it or not, Canada has one of the lowest business taxes in the world – it is time to stop with the tax breaks to the rich and to big business – we lose billions yearly to them and also to off-shore accounts. This is at least a place to start finidng the money needed to fund improvements.

    Also, I believe that the spending during this pandemic should not be looked upon as a burden – instead we should be happy to see that people were the recepients for most of this spending to help them through this tough time – but so were a lot of businesses helped too. I can’t think of a better use of money than what it was spent on – our future! Canadians were well taken care of – and why not? And yes it cost us a ton of money – the alternative would have been a humanitarian disaster.

  2. Fred says:

    We need not for profit LTC, we need pharmacare, we need dental care,we need vision care, we need affordable housing, we need childcare, we need guaranteed income, etc. etc. Who pays for providing this on top of record debt in a pandemic?

  3. kb says:

    Looking at the big picture – PRIVATIZATION DOESN’T WORK. We need NOT FOR PROFIT HEALTH CARE, and this includes long term care.

  4. Dennis Fox says:

    To clarify my reference to Mike Harris – he does sit on the Board of Directors for Chartwell Homes – a similar operatopnm to Revera. Don’t worry about him – financially he is doing just fine, the rest is questionable.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    No one should be under the mistaken belief that these cuts are taking place to balance a surplus of staff – anything but! It is common knowledge that LTC homes, including Hallowell House, have been historically “under” staffed for years! I believe this decrease in patents would help level the field a bit and be benefical for both staff and patents. If people recall, the FORD government, in recognition of this system wide “under” staffing problem, promised to train and to hire thousands of PSWs and to implement a 4 hour/day patent care sysytem. To date none of those promises have been kept and nor has the government tried to keep them. Instead this government has allowed the owners of these private facilities to pocket the money and passed legislation preventing them from being sued for negligence. So who are the government really concerned about – the patents? the staff? or the owners?

    While there are two sides to most stories, this one is just more of the same old “stuff” – about greedy people wanting more in their pockets, while the workers get zip and are asked to work harder. It is time for the public to start paying attention to what is really happening – we are paying for a very faulty system and it is time for this to stop!

  6. Bruce Nicholson says:

    Not that it is relevant in the least.
    Mike Harris has no connection to Revera.
    Why is this political bashing necessary ?

  7. Emily says:

    Hard to fund staffing positions when you have had to reduce beds. 30 + fewer residents would affect staffing requirements. You don’t over staff on the fear of staff calling in sick. Theirs 2 sides of the story here. Bottom line will be how much more the Public who are screaming are willing to pay in taxes. Nothing is free even in old age.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    And to think of the last year and a half that these people have worked in LTC and placing thier own health and that of their families in danger, plus how many lives did they save? – then to have it end like this. It really is an unbelievebale insult. Our community has to stand with these people to prevent the lay-offs.

    It rubs salt into the would to know that this is how one of our past Ontario Premiers now makes his living – sittig on the Board of Directors of a LTC Corproation, making $500K/yr. I wondwr if Mike Harris even cares about these people? He sure didn’t show any concerns towards the Chippawa at Ipperwash – another fiasco under Conservative rule.

  9. sam says:

    A CTV W5 news story from 2018 shows for-profit nursing homes are lucrative. In 2017, Extendicare paid its president and CEO just under $4 million and paid out more than $37 million in dividends to shareholders. Sienna Senior Living paid its CEO a little over $1.2 million and over $36 million in dividends to shareholders. The story says Revera is privately owned and does not report financial data.

    If it didn’t make a lot of money, they wouldn’t be doing it. The top for-profit homes (including Revera) are also now paying big money to defend lawsuits related to COVID.

  10. SM says:

    The Province has been paying all LTC homes AS IF they were at full capacity. That funding will end at the end of summer unless for some reason the Province once again decides to extend the funding. The Government’s rationale seems to be that full funding would allow the LTC homes to remain fully operational and ready to take on new residents once ‘patients’ start seeking LTC bed space. The funding that comes from the Province pays the wages of the care staff. If the full funding is not extended by the province this LTC home will revert to a level of funding that will be less than 2/3 of what it was previously. The LTC is required to account for all of this funding and it is not intended to be an area of profit as the LTC home is required to pay back funds not expended on the costs this funding is meant to cover.
    Each patient is required to pay a portion of their costs to stay in the LTC home as well. Obviously that funding stream will be reduced to less than 2/3 of what it was. Part of this portion of funding is the profit or return on investment for the LTC home owner.
    The Province has ordered that 4 bed ward rooms only house 2 patients. The Province dictates the level of funding per bed. That includes both the patient and government funding amounts. How then can we expect this LTC home to keep those staff on the payroll if they are not receiving the funding to pay their wages?

  11. D mcCorquodale says:

    Well written! Best wishes and keep up the good work! Lead this province to better elder care.

  12. Christina Lang says:

    Shame on Hallowell house and its greedy for profit revera, that any psw would be let go now is simply ridiculous, during a 4th wave pandemic!!! These greedy companies make me sick and ruined health care in Canada. Where us our government to end this for profit health care . Are we simply the US , where health care sucks yet we think we have something better, we don’t. No foot care , no dental ,don’t get me started. Anyways these cutbacks when it takes a senior 6 mins to get toilet let alone dressed and ready shows there is a clear lack of care . Hire more don’t fire any .
    Signed a former psw who left health care because of rap like this at the start of wave 2 .
    Where’s trudeau w his promises of 25 an hour ….

  13. John Scotland says:

    Of Ontario’s 78,000 LTC beds, approximately 4500 are 3rd and 4th ward beds. To protect residents the ministry closed these beds to new admissions and continued to fund them. It is unclear what will happen when the occupancy protection (funding) introduced to address these and other pandemic related vacancies impacting LTC homes ends on August 31st. For a small 98 bed home, the loss of funding will be devastating. In financial terms funding for the reported thirty-eight 3rd & 4th ward beds at this home represents over $7 thousand/day or $2.57 million a year. If ever there was a time to invest in addressing the long acknowledged need for more hours of direct care, surely it is now. Let’s hope that we do not miss the opportunity to advance the move to a minimum of 4 hours of care, or ensure that homes are ready and staffed as we prepare for yet another wave of Covid-19.

  14. Dennis Fox says:

    These cuts are a disgrace. Where are our elected representatives in all of this? This is why private care is perferred by politicians – thye believe it exoneratres them from responsibility – IT DOES’T! Now is the time for the public to demand that LTCs come under government control – one way or the other many of us will end up in a LTC home and it will still cost us big money. It is time to fix this system and to protect those who have protected some many – they deserve better than this!

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