Candace Rennick’s Remarks – Ottawa Press Conference on Breaking Point

Good morning, and thank you for being here this morning.

My name is Candace Rennick, I am the Secretary Treasurer of CUPE Ontario and a former Long Term Care worker.  Joining my this morning is Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith who conducted the research which led to the study, Breaking Point, which has just been published and released.  Breaking Point represents and in depth, peer reviewed investigative study on violence against staff in LTC homes across Ontario.

You will hear directly from Dr’s Brophy and Keith on what they heard during their investigation research but first I will like to walk you through the Ottawa specific results of the Province wide poll that was conducted on the question of Violence against staff in LTC.

CUPE represents close to 40,000 Long Term Care workers across Ontario.  Close to 1300 members representing municipal, charitable and private long term care facilities spread out across the province responded to the poll.  We are focusing on the Ottawa specific results this morning.

Of the respondents from the Ottawa 80% have identified themselves as women.

76% of respondents work as personal Support Workers or Registered Practical nurses.

On the question of physical violence, such as being pushed, hit or having things thrown at them by residents or even family members, 76% of the Ottawa respondents (which includes all the job groups) report to experiencing this type of physical violence with almost half of them saying that it occurs at least once a week.

Asked about non physical violence, such as name calling, insults, threatening gestures or intimidation, 85% responded they have encountered this on the job.  Almost 60% saying they experience this at least once a week.

But when you dive deeper into the poll and look at the numbers of from the direct front line staff, the RPNs and PSWs, those who are generally most at risk, the experiences of violence are much higher.

For instance:

88% of personal support workers (PSWs) and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) report experiencing physical violence.

86% of personal support workers (PSWs) and 92% of Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs) experience non-physical violence.

When asked about sexual harassment, such as comments or gesture that are sexual in nature, 66% or two thirds of those who responded say they have experienced sexual harassment on the job.

On the question of sexual assault of a physical nature, such as groping or inappropriate touching, almost half of those who responded have admitted to being sexually assaulted in our Long Term Care homes.  Almost 60% of Personal Support Workers reported experiencing forms of Sexual Assault on the job.

When we asked them about how often this has been reported we learned that 55% of those that responded have not made any reports at all.  And we know from our focus groups that people don’t report for fear of being blamed or believing that nothing will be done about it.

I can speak from experience, being cornered in the private room of a resident who tried to force himself on me, grabbing my face to try to kiss me.  I was able to remove myself from the situation without any further violation but when I went to my manager to report the incident I was told to and I quote, “stop being so nice.”

Almost 75% of respondents said they do not believe that residents receive an adequate level of care under current staffing and workload conditions.

Just over 60% of those who responded indicated that at least half of the experiences of violence they endured at work took place during a time where they were working short staffed.

92% of those said they believe that additional staffing in Long term Care Homes would help to prevent incidents of violence.

When asked on a scale of 1 – 9 with 1 being low and 9 being high how stressed, anxious or emotionally exhausted were they caused by working conditions, 75% reported 5 or higher with 20% responding with a 9 – which was the most stressed or exhausted caused by working conditions.   Analyzing the poll deeper tells us that 70% of RPNs and 74% of personal support workers who responded admitted to thinking about leaving their job because of working conditions.

62% of respondents identified as indigenous or racialized or newly immigrated to Canada and we asked only those who identify with one of those categories to tell us how often they believe harassment or abuse at work is directly related to race, and 73% of those who responded say their experience mistreatment based on race.

The story of verbal, sexual and physical violence that these results suggest should concern everyone who is associated with Long Term Care in our province.

An environment this violent and degrading for LTC workers must surely also be unsafe for residents.  These results paint a grim picture of a scandalously unsafe environment.

Together, the study and the polling results reflect the anguish and emotional and physical pain of the long term care workforce in the face of an unrelenting wave of verbal, racial, sexual and physical violence.

We are calling on all MPPs, regardless of their political partisanship to come together to pass laws that will make life better and safer for workers living and working in Long Term Care.  We are asking MPPs to take action on 2 bills that are presently before the Ontario legislature.

  • Bill 13 – the Time to Care act – calling on a legislated care standard of 4 hours of care per resident per day. Front line workers need more time to spend meeting the needs of our loved ones and we strongly believe that there is an obvious connection between violence and staff not having enough time to care for or meet the needs of residents.
  • Bill 192 – a bill that will provide statutory protection to health Care worker who come forward to report incidents of violence on the job. We know that many health care workers are afraid to report incidents of violence for fear they will be ignored, blamed or punished.  This culture has to change.  Acts of violence on the job should not be normalized.  This bill recently died on the order paper but will be reintroduced in the weeks ahead.

And lastly, we are asking the Federal government to change the Criminal code.

  • Bill C-434– a federal MP private members bill that would make changes to the federal criminal code, similar to changes that were made for transit workers, that would see violence against a health care workers treated as a serious criminal code offence for any personal mentally competent.

We believe these changes are long overdue and will go a long way to improving the quality of care and safety for residents and staff in Long Term Care here in Ottawa.

Thank you for being here this morning and we will be happy to take any questions if you have any or to chat one on one after we conclude.

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Source: CUPE Ontario