FIQ (Fédération Interprofessionnelle de la santé du Québec)

Improving seniors’ care is impossible without enough staff

Improving seniors’ care is impossible without enough staff

The action plan stemming from the policy on residential and long-term care and services presented on May 5 doesn’t provide any concrete solutions for implementing Minister Marguerite Blais’ good ideas. The FIQ and FIQP remain seriously concerned about healthcare professionals’ working conditions, the quality and safety of care they are providing, and the situation for caregivers (the majority of whom are women) and patients.

The government wants to personalize care? Great. But how does it plan to do it? Understaffed and exhausted, healthcare professionals have very little time to spend with residents. In these conditions, saying that they will have time to learn about patients’ past and interests to give them personalized care, as specified in the action plan, is a utopian delusion.

A noble objective would be to improve practices to raise the level of satisfaction of patients and their loved ones. However, having enough staff is a non-negotiable condition for professional practices to be able to ensure the well-being of and meet the needs of residents and their loved ones. The FIQ, FIQP and ally organizations have pressed the government to introduce safe healthcare professional-to-patient ratios, particularly in long-term care centres but it continues to turn a deaf ear!

We urgently need safe healthcare ratios in Quebec

The government says that we need more healthcare professionals in the network before we can implement safe ratios. And yet, international cases have shown the opposite is true: putting a measure in place that improves the professional practice, such as safe ratios, increases the attraction and retention of healthcare professionals. Let’s implement safe ratios in all care settings, especially in long-term care centres. Then the action plan’s objectives will be much more realistic.

In Quebec, the pilot projects conducted between 2018 and 2019 in many care settings, including in CHSLDs, led to a significant decrease in the number of falls and enabled healthcare professionals to get to know patients better, which in turn led to more thorough and better documented assessments. Patients who arrived bedridden at a CHSLD, because they had not been assessed in a timely manner, were able to walk again and recover some of their autonomy because healthcare professionals were able to take the time to implement their adapted walking programs.

In California, where ratios have been in place for more than 15 years, they have documented an increase in care quality and an increase in time spent with patients. What are we waiting for?

A plan that puts the burden on caregivers

Even the Auditor General, in her most recent report, has noted that the government recognizes that long-term care needs will increase due to the ageing population, but that the service offer hasn’t been planned or expanded accordingly. The action plan also points to increasingly involving caregivers and community organizations, which is a way of admitting that seniors who have lost a lot of autonomy will not have all of their needs met by the health network. The burden of care giving will fall to caregivers who are overwhelmingly female and who will be confronted with the difficult decision of leaving their career or personal projects. This will hit even harder since only $600,000 out of an approximately 3-billion-dollar budget is allocated to accompany and support them.  That is very little for such ambitious goals.

While they do not doubt the Minister’s true will to improve the quality of life for long-term care residents, the FIQ and FIQP don’t think that it will make much of a difference without safe healthcare professional-to-patient ratios and proper funding. Seniors were supposed to be one of this government’s top priorities. As its terms is nearing an end, it’s urgent that it rectify the situation!