An external review of palliative home care in Winnipeg is shedding light on how the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) failed to provide a cancer patient the home care she was promised in her final days.
More than eight months since Eric de Schepper’s partner died of pancreatic cancer, a report into home care’s failures and ways forward is providing validation.
“It makes me feel that we’re on a positive track here,” de Schepper said Wednesday.
The WRHA supplied de Schepper with the review last week, although it was completed in June.
It reveals what happened before Katherine Ellis’s passing in February that led to an absence of home care and Ellis lying in the same sheets for weeks. The WRHA had promised them workers would come by weekly to provide her care and respite for de Schepper.
The report shows her case was mistakenly assigned the wrong priority, a Priority 3 instead of a Priority 1 request.
Some internal communications and conversations with de Schepper also weren’t carried out or documented, resulting in a home care attendant arriving at their house unaware Ellis had died days earlier.
“To me, it clearly shows that there is a lack of staffing,” de Schepper said.
“These are errors that happen when people are under a lot of stress, and then they start making little mistakes that have huge consequences.”
De Schepper said he believes the review’s 21 recommendations are enough to overcome systemic issues, and he trusts the WRHA — with whom he’s been meeting monthly — to follow through on modernizing its communication tools and prioritizing palliative patients.
“A lot of the communication techniques are still very outdated. There’s still a lot of paper involved, phone calls,” de Schepper said.
Changes underway: WRHA
Changes, including making sure palliative patients are given top priority, are already implemented, the WRHA’s Luba Bereza told Global News on Wednesday.
“Distribution of a home care-wide communication to remind home care offices that palliative clients are top priority clients” makes up the first item on the review’s list of recommendations.
Bereza, who serves as the health authority’s director of centralized home care services and regional palliative care, also expects a new Procura mobile app that can deliver messages and scheduling changes in real time to roll out between January and March 2024.
“We’re taking this very seriously. We did not meet service standards, and that’s not acceptable for us,” Bereza said.
From January to September this year, vacancy rates dropped from 21 to 16 per cent, she said, although the health authority still loses about 14 home care attendants a month.
The WRHA is looking into why people are leaving, Bereza continued.
“They leave the province. They change careers, all those sorts of things, but are there things that we could be doing within home care to help recruiting those staff?”
In that same timeframe, the health authority hired 308 certified and uncertified home care attendants, 133 of whom were trained through its uncertified home care attendant program launched this year.
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Staffing challenges persist without ‘proper’ benefits, wages: union
CUPE 204 president Debbie Boissonneault says benefits and wages still aren’t competitive enough to attract and retain staff.
“It’s really sad because recruitment and retention, they’re losing them, so you can bring all the uncertified you want, but you’re losing people that actually have been doing these jobs for a very long time.”
Bereza, however, said collective bargaining determines wages, which her department doesn’t directly manage.
“But we’d be working with our labour relations officers as they work with unions to negotiate those wages.“
Home care workers’ collective agreement was ratified Sept. 23 last year, Boissonneault said.
“We had 90 days of ratification to work on things for the home care group: wage adjustments and wage standardization,” she said. “We’re still working on those, and sometimes, we’re not getting many dates.”
“We’re waiting on the plan to provide information, so there’s a lot that this group is still behind on and still wanting to get.”
Meanwhile, de Schepper said he’ll be following the WRHA’s progress closely.
“We’re working towards something that hopefully will prevent similar situations from happening … in the future.”
De Schepper’s complaint to Manitoba’s Ombudsman investigation is also finished, he said. However, it’s triggered more investigations into the WRHA for systemic errors, he said.
Global News has reached out to the Ombudsman’s office for comment.
Winnipeg man says palliative home care failed his dying partner
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