Towards a coherent elder health and elder care framework: RNAO
TORONTO, May 11, 2004 – The government’s announcement today of $531 million in funding to improve human resources and add more than 600 nurses, including nurse practitioners, to long-term care facilities is welcome news, especially for the more than 70,000 seniors living in long-term care facilities who want to live safely and with dignity.
“We wholeheartedly applaud Premier McGuinty and Minister Smitherman for their clear commitment to older persons,” said Joan Lesmond, president of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO). “We look forward to continuing our work with government to develop a coherent elder health and elder care framework that the rest of Canada can look to for guidance.”
RNAO executive director Doris Grinspun added, “Ensuring older persons in long-term care facilities maintain a positive quality of life is paramount. Today’s announcement of resident and family councils as well as mandatory reporting of abuse diminishes seniors’ vulnerability.”
The association also applauded provisions for whistle-blower protection that will ensure staff can help put an end to abusive behaviours. “Whistle-blower protection is an important safety valve in the health-care system that ensures nurses and other health-care workers can report suspicion, or evidence, of elder abuse without fear of reprisals from employers,” added Lesmond.
“RNAO will continue to work with government, other health-care providers and seniors to ensure increased and timely access to safe and effective care in long-term care facilities and the community,” said Grinspun. “Registered nurses are advocating for solutions to create solid and seamless community programs seniors can access and trust. We want to refocus the debate away from the rhetoric of a growing and aging population that will bankrupt the health-care system, and design a positive agenda aimed at connecting with, and caring for, seniors across Ontario.”
The association urges employers to use part of the funding to immediately integrate nurse practitioners into long-term care facilities and reinstate RNs on-site 24-hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. It is also vital that employers immediately move to 70 per cent full-time employment for all nurses working in long-term care. “The current overreliance on casual, part-time and agency nursing care threatens the safety and quality of care residents receive,” said Lesmond.
In addition to its policy work on this front, RNAO, in collaboration with the Registered Practical Nurses Association of Ontario and the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, recently launched a Nursing Week (May 10-16) public awareness campaign to highlight the urgent need to improve elder health and elder care in our communities. The campaign includes transit and newspaper advertising featuring real-life photographs of healthy, active and independent seniors who enjoy such things as gardening, cycling, teaching Tai Chi and shopping at the market. The photographs also depict nurses caring for these seniors in times of need (visit www.rnao.ca to view the posters).
“Addressing the problems in long-term care facilities is a great move forward,” said Grinspun. “Building community programs that are responsive to the needs of older persons and that help them remain vibrant participants in our society must be the next step.”
The Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.