Note: This letter was sent to Deb Matthews, the Ontario minister of health and long term care, and copied to Parry Sound-Muskoka MPP Norm Miller and this newspaper.
I am writing to you due to serious concerns about nursing staff level at our local Ontario hospitals. I am not referring to regional health centres, such as Sunnybrook and South Lake, which I understand draw patients from far afield for specialized intensive care, and which are funded at a different rate from local general hospitals to which patients are “repatriated” once stabilized.
Our family has had experience with both the above mentioned health centres and have been awed by the expertise and level of care provided by each institution.
Our serious concerns arise from obvious deficiencies we have experienced due to “repatriation.”
Our daughter Lisa, a healthy and very fit 50 year old, was suddenly stricken by a massive hemorrhagic stroke while at her gym on Nov. 20, 2012. She was quickly transported to Sunnybrook, where she was immediately examined and appropriate treatment decided upon and performed.
Post-operatively, she was cared for in critical care followed by constant care. Constant care included at least daily physiotherapy. Lisa was making good progress in gradually emerging from a deep coma when suddenly, on Jan. 17, her husband was informed that Lisa was to be “repatriated” to Rouge Valley Centenary.
Her naso-gastric tube (for feeding) had been removed, but she was moved before the planned-for PIC line could be inserted. Lisa was left without any nutrition for four days (Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Her weight, 120 lbs. on Nov. 20, fell to 96 lbs.
We were dismayed by the obvious deficiencies contrasted in the two hospitals. At Rouge Valley, two RNs and four PSWs are responsible for 20 bed-ridden, often confused and incontinent seniors in a “continuing care” (i.e. geriatric) ward.
These staffing levels are cut on weekends and holidays, with very few support services. While I give the care staff (RNs and PSWs) credit for managing as best they can, they are often rushed off their feet.
This results in the following:
1. For the patient: long response times to call buttons, errors in treatment (i.e. feed line rates and prescriptions), lack of progress or improvement in physical, mental and emotional states.
2. For the caregiver: risk of errors in patient care which can (and should) lead to disciplinary measures, personal fatigue and risk of injury, profound lack of job satisfaction, poor staff morale.
3. For the patients’ families: criticism and complaints to managers and above, lack of confidence in the system, lack of confidence in government.
We are profoundly grateful that Lisa’s husband has spent all day, every day with Lisa at the two hospitals. He has not only provided emotional support to Lisa, he has learned to provide much of the physical monitoring and care that she has needed. He has also advocated for support services (physio- and occupational and speech therapies). He has augmented that provided by learning some of the exercises needed to help Lisa return to various activities.
Our provincial health-care system seems to be a provincial sickness-care system, very good at treating illness and keeping people alive, but much less good at keeping people healthy and returning the ill to full health when possible in an appropriate setting.
I won’t go into home care or nursing homes. It is too close to home and I am scared to death.
We appreciate what has been done in that Lisa is alive and slowly improving, and that it has been at minimal financial cost to us.
The problems of finance are serious and getting worse. Some European countries apparently do better. Should we take lessons?
Thank you for your attention. I hope this tale gives some better idea of hospital needs for support.