Janet Hazelton has been fielding calls from concerned workers and hearing comments from people in the community worried about the news that Valley View Villa is looking at its staffing levels to reduce costs.
According to information provided to The News, the nursing home is currently in discussions with unions to help address a large operation deficit.
“I got a lot of phone calls from people over the weekend that are quite upset,” said Hazelton, president of the Nova Scotia Nurses Union.
Residents and their families deserve better than this, she said, and she will be pushing for answers as to how the financial situation became so bad at Valley View. All staff in nursing homes in the province are paid on the same scale and staffing is part of the provincial budget, so she said she doesn’t understand how there is an issue.
The nurses and other staff will continue to do the best they can, she said, but they are under a great amount of pressure.
“There’s no way we can go with less. I don’t understand how they can even be musing about it.”
On a larger scale she believes it’s an issue that needs to be addressed across the province.
“Long-term care staffing is a real challenge that’s been neglected for a lot of years and it has to get fixed,” she said.
Part of the problem is that the numbers living in residence homes today has increased but the staffing levels haven’t changed to match it.
The effort to keep people in their homes longer, has been great, she said, but as a result people living in nursing homes now are the people who require far greater care than the average resident would have in years past.
To highlight the point, she said, she recently went to the 50th anniversary of a nursing home, which had a large parking lot next to it. She was told that it was previously used as a residents parking lot. Now it would be almost unheard of to have any residents who still drove their own car.
“Residents have gotten a lot sicker,” she said.
What hasn’t changed is the staffing levels to care for these people with more needs.
“I don’t understand most of the time how our long-term care staff work so hard. I don’t know how they get everything done,” Hazelton said. “I can’t imagine if you’re going to reduce them.”
While her primary focus is with nurses who are part of her union, she said they are also concerned about staffing of maintenance and kitchen workers and CCAs.
“We can’t do our job unless there’s people there to help us,” she said.
If nurses don’t feel they’re able to provide adequate care with the staffing level they have, Hazelton said they are required to report it to their administrator or the union. She has often received such reports from people in various institutions in Pictou County. When they get a report the union brings it up with the management and tries to find a solution to resolve it.
While some people are afraid to make such reports, Hazelton believes it’s important to raise awareness of the issue.