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Campaign to address long-term care concerns in Central Newfoundland gaining momentum

Sharon Goulding-Collins has been fighting for additional care in long-term care facilities throughout the province after her mother, pictured, had several incidents that left her scratched, bruised and injured.
Sharon Goulding-Collins has been fighting for additional care in long-term care facilities throughout the province after her mother, pictured, had several incidents that left her scratched, bruised and injured. - File photo

Goulding-Collins says advocate group ‘struck a nerve’

GANDER, NL – A social media campaign focusing on services provided to seniors in long-term care (LTC) facilities is gaining momentum.
Sharon Goulding-Collins of Hare Bay started the Facebook group “Advocates for Senior Citizens Rights (ASCR)” in response to several incidents involving her own mother at Lakeside Homes in Gander.
Goulding-Collins attributes injuries her mother sustained during her time at Lakeside to understaffing at the facility.
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Since she created the Facebook group on Dec. 15, 2017, it has gained well over 6,000 members in just over two months. She notes on the Facebook page that similar concerns are being echoed by family members of LTC residents across the country.
“[It] definitely struck a nerve, one that has been an open lesion for way too long,” Goulding-Collins said. “We will now be the voice for the vulnerable and those sometimes unheard, without a voice – our senior citizens.”
Goulding-Collins alleges the policy for determining adequate staffing to ensure proper patient hygiene and safety was not being followed at Lakeside, which she believes resulted in her mother’s injuries. She says based on Central Health’s formula for determining staffing ratios, she figures nine caregivers were needed to oversee morning wake-up and breakfast routines, but she was informed only four were present.
Gaitane Villeneuve, communications director for Central Health, which runs Lakeside and 10 other LTC homes in the region, would not speak directly to the specific allegations, but stated all the facilities adhere to provincial standards.
“Central Health follows the Provincial Long Term Care Operational Standards for Newfoundland and Labrador,” Villeneuve wrote in an email.
Goulding-Collins says these standards are not good enough.
“There are provincial standards, but no laws,” she wrote. “Standards are just guidelines. Standards are not focused to specific adequate requirements for proper hygiene and safety care.”
Goulding-Collins said she has noticed improvement since she first started voicing her concerns but is now concerned about how it is being accomplished.
“I see a huge difference at the special care unit where Mom resides at Lakeside, now (there’s) always more visible staff,” she said. “Unfortunately, management is now putting more pressure and workload on existing, extremely understaffed caregivers.”
Villeneuve disputed the characterization of the facility being understaffed.
“We are fortunate to have full staffing levels at all our long-term care facilities, which is consistent with staffing ratios in all of our 11 LTC homes in Central Health,” he wrote. “Nursing care is provided on a 24-hour basis by registered nurses (RN), licensed practical nurses (LPN), and personal care attendants (PCA).”
Still, Goulding-Collins believes the LTC standards need to be improved and made law. Specifically, she is advocating for legislation that requires residents to receive three full baths per week rather than the current one provided for in the standards, and that facilities be required to hire staff whose sole responsibility is to monitor and supervise residents and intervene to prevent injuries.
The Health Department declined to comment on whether anything is being done to address Goulding-Collins’ concerns, but pointed the Beacon to the terms of reference (TR) for a management review of the health authority, which is currently underway.
The external review was triggered by complaints that suggested a “toxic environment” exists within Central Health. The TR does not specifically address long-term care, but includes, “Any other related matters deemed appropriate by the consultant after conferring with the Minister of Health and Community Services.”
Goulding-Collins hopes continued pressure from her group will convince the minister that their priorities should be government’s priorities.
“We hope that the largest number of members will have a large impact on our government, which is supposed to be ‘the voice of the people,’ because we see so much of how our seniors suffer needlessly because of understaffing,” she said. “They have human rights in this country we live in and should be a priority as Canadian citizens.”

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