Administrative Professionals keep our system moving forward!

Some people think administrative professionals in our healthcare facilities just answer phones and direct patients to their waiting rooms. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. They are highly qualified professionals who play a critical role in our healthcare system.

Take Yvonne McCall-Peekhaus for instance. She is a Health Information Management Professional who works at the Brant Community Healthcare System in Brantford, Ontario. A big component of her job is analyzing the data she processes.

“An important part of my job is performing qualitative analysis on the numbers, run reports and provide data and support to care teams and senior administration,” Yvonne said.

The data she records and studies can play a role in how much funding the hospital receives from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. The information her department analyzes may have played a role in helping the hospital secure additional funding from the ministry.

But it’s not just hard numbers that administrative professionals work on. They play an important but indirect role in providing quality care for patients. Take Carolyn Peters-McVety for example. She works at Women’s College Hospital in the surgical services division in Toronto. One of her primary responsibilities is admitting patients in the hospital’s pain clinic. She does an excellent job showing empathy for patients suffering from pain.

“I make a connection with our pain patients. I have a lot of compassion for those that are in pain and I totally understand why they are upset. It’s hard to see pain. With a physical injury you can visually see what the problem is but with pain it is hard to see. When you acknowledge their pain it’s a huge impact on a patient. It’s so rewarding to be given a hug from a patient because you have acknowledged them and you are trying to help them. I love this part of my job.”

Administrative professionals play a key role in our healthcare system. And it’s important that more people know about it!

G.A.D.

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SEIU Healthcare celebrates Equal Pay Day

On April 16, 2014 thousands of men and women are joining across Ontario to mark the second annual Equal Pay Day. April 16 is the point during the New Year that the average woman in Ontario must work in order to earn the same pay that a man in a similar role earns by the end of year before.

This year, following years of work from SEIU Healthcare, the Equal Pay Coalition and other important community organizers the government of Ontario has become the first Canadian governmental body to formally recognize Equal Pay Day! Click here to listen to Ontario’s Minister of Labour formally recognizing Equal Pay Day.

Unfortunately, the 2014 Equal Pay Day is later than last year because the gender pay gap increased from 3% to 31%. Instead of closing the gender gap, we’re actually widening it at an alarming rate. On average, men’s annual earnings in Ontario went up by $200 and women’s went down by $1400. For older women, it means working 14 more years after age 65 to get what men earn by age 65. Women of colour, aboriginal women and women with disabilities face even larger gaps.

Equal Pay Days are held around the world to recognize the full value of women’s work and their contribution to local economies and to organize action on many fronts to close the gap.

Ontarians and employers need to mark this year’s Equal Pay Day by starting a conversation on the gender pay gap. We need to level the playing field. For example, greater access to affordable childcare and employment practices which recognize the full value of women’s work and use 100% of the talent in our province. Closing the gender pay gap should be an economic and human rights priority.

Together, we can close the wage gap. Here’s how you can help:
• Sign SEIU’s petition and visit http://www.equalpaycoalition.org to sign their declaration
• Share your stories on Twitter and Facebook using #EqualPayDay
• Organize a Pay Equity bake sale! Women pay 69 cents (or 31% less!) for a baked good that costs $1 for a man

S.A

Drugs vs. Direct Care: Is a minimum care standard a solution to the current woes facing long term care?

When I walked in to the office this morning I stood face to face with this article on the front page of the Toronto Star – an intimate portrayal of the medicating culture that has taken over long-term care (LTC) homes.

The article brings to light the use of antipsychotic drugs on elderly patients, and questions the alarming rate at which these medications are being administered. According to The Star, “At more than 40 homes across the province, roughly half the residents are on the drugs.” Half! On antipsychotic drugs: medication, The Star claims, that is being used to treat a condition or age group that it’s not approved for. In the article, they cite these drugs as “extremely powerful”, “not proven to work for seniors” and as having “horrible side effects” such as violence, confusion, and [some might suggest] death.

Though much of the article focuses on whether it is even appropriate to prescribe such medications, it also raises the questions around staffing, resources and patient care. Why are seemingly harmless residents being prescribed life-threatening medication, when staff members are unable to “cope” with their behaviour?

According to Statistics Canada, total paid hours of care (including non-direct care) per resident, per day in residential care facilities in Ontario was 3.3 in 1997/98 with a small increase to 3.8 in 2005/06. According to this data, Ontario is second last across the country for total hours per resident/day. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care says that paid hours of care in 2012 were 3.43 per resident per day.

The number of paid hours takes into account hours paid for vacation, sick days and personal time. Therefore, “worked hours of care per resident per day” better reflects how many hours of care a resident actually received. According to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, average worked hours of direct care per resident, per day was 2.375 in 2004 and 2.573 in 2006. We estimate that this number corresponds to no more than 2.9 hours of direct care per resident per day in 2012. For reference, in 2008, the government of Ontario commissioned a report on the long term sector, ‘People Caring for People’, authored by Shirley Sharkee. The report recommended 4 hours of direct care per person per day.

An obvious reality is that staff members are unable to respond to the needs of the residents, because of the shortages in caring staff and because of the increasingly complex needs of the residents. For example, 83% of residents in 2011 had “high” or “very high” care needs compared to 72% in 2007. That’s an 11% increase in residents of high need within a period of four years.

Research shows that incidents of violence occur most often when residents are not receiving direct care. And so it seems that some nursing homes that have shortage in staff, are regularly giving seniors these risky drugs to calm and “restrain” wandering, agitated and aggressive seniors. Medicating them with these strong medications seems to be an attempt to control their natural response to the neglect they face in a long-term care home.

The Star article goes on to write that “after a 2011 Star investigation into widespread abuse and neglect in Ontario nursing homes, the government spent $59 million to hire more than 600 employees and train 34,000. The efforts appear to have done little to ease most nursing homes’ reliance on these powerful drugs…”

In spite of successive years of funding increases to the LTC home sector, there has not been a similar increase in daily hands-on care provision. The vast majority of funding increases has gone towards building institutional capacity (either building more institutions or renovating older ones) rather than improving the amount of daily care for existing residents and addressing the urgent quality of care issues.

In January of this year, SEIU Healthcare made the following proposal at the 2014 Pre-Budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs:

A five-year implementation schedule that would begin in 2014 with an immediate establishment of a minimum care standard of 3.5 hours of direct care per resident, per day, with the target of a 4.0 hours of direct care per resident by 2019. The standard should cover direct care staff including RPNs and PSWs, excluding administrative staff. It should be attached to the Nursing and Personal Care funding envelope – excluding incontinence supplies. It should reflect worked hours as opposed to paid hours and should be subject to compliance and enforcement mechanisms.

Staffing levels are crucial to providing sound care, preventing abuse and neglect, ensuring the safety of residents and care workers, and improving the quality of life of residents. A minimum staffing standard will ensure accountability and compliance for all LTC homes in Ontario to deliver a specific amount of daily care for which they are funded.

S.R.S and A.B.

Why homecare workers need a raise

This short video reminds Ontarians what homecare personal support workers (PSWs) do and how much we rely on them as a society. Almost everyone knows a special someone who is keen (or even insistent) on staying at home because they want to live independently. But they need help. Homecare PSWs need help too. The Sweet $16 campaign is about more than wages, however. It calls on the Ontario government to do four concrete things to fix the Ontario homecare system. Share the video and email your MPP to help raise awareness about this issue!

G.W.