29 Homicides in Ontario Long-Term Care Homes
On January 21 2019 there was a report released by a health-care advocacy group that has stated there have been at least 29 homicides in long-term care homes in Ontario over the past six years.
The Ontario Health Coalition released a report on violence in long term care homes, with the homicide numbers coming directly from the coroner’s office, which doesn’t necessarily assign blame in a finding of homicide, but defines it as one person causing the death of another.
Natalie Mehra who is the coalition’s Executive Director, said “a resident with dementia may be aggressive toward another resident, resulting in their death, and while there is no criminal intent, it’s a tragedy for all involved”.
“The level of homicide in Ontario’s long-term care facilities is higher than virtually anywhere else in our society,” she said.
The actual total number of long-term care homicides is higher than the 29 found in the coroner’s data, Mehra said, because they don’t include the victims of nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer, who confessed to murdering eight patients, some of whom were killed in the report’s time span.
“When considering those statistics in the context of Ontario having about 80,000 people living in long-term care homes, that’s a homicide rate four times the city of Toronto”, Mehra said.
“When we dug a little more deeply we looked at other types of violence in long-term care, we found that the violence rates all around, not just homicides, were escalating, and that homicides are the extreme end of a continuum of violence that is escalating in the homes,” she said.
There is another side to it as well, “staff in the homes are also experiencing violence”, Mehra said, pointing to government figures showing that lost time due to injury in long-term care is nearly double that of the health sector in general.
So, with this, the coalition released a report Monday, calling on the government to establish a minimum standard of care, guaranteeing at least four hours of hands-on nursing and personal support for each resident. The coalition have calculated using the government data, that current levels of staffing are at 2.71 hours per resident per day.
The coalition are also calling for an increased use of behavioural supports teams, which work to help long-term care homes manage individuals that may experience aggressive behaviour due to dementia or other conditions. It is reported that half of Ontario’s long-term care homes have no in-house behavioural supports resources.
The coalition has stated that part of what has led to the current situation is Ontario cutting chronic care and psychogeriatric care beds in hospitals and offloading the patients to long-term care homes.
“Ontario’s long-term care homes have not been resourced to increase care levels commensurate with the offloading of significantly more complex patients,” the report said. “Our research shows that long-term care beds are funded at approximately one-third the rate of chronic/complex care hospital beds.”
We have a real crisis in Ontario Long Term Care that needs immediate addressing. Time will tell if this report will impart change where it is needed the most. Our seniors and those who care for them do not deserve this.