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Lack of personal support workers keeps Ottawa woman stuck in hospital

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Joanne Schnurr, CTV Ottawa


Published Tuesday, December 18, 2018 1:39PM EST


Last Updated Tuesday, December 18, 2018 6:54PM EST

 A province-wide shortage of personal support workers is keeping some patients hospital-bound.

The cost to our health system is astronomical, but the cost to the mental state of those patients, immeasurable. One Ottawa woman is so desperate to leave the hospital; she fears she’s spiraling downwards.  She’s been at Saint Vincent Hospital for a year and a half, ready to be discharged but no one to care for her.

 Three hours a day.  That’s all Christine Benoit says she needs to help her return home to her apartment in Kanata. Instead, she remains at Saint Vincent Hospital where she’s been for more than a year, physically at any rate.  But her mind is elsewhere.

“I’m long gone,” she says, “I want to run away but I know that’s not a possibility because I need the support.”

The 44-year-old has multiple sclerosis and needs the help of a personal support worker (PSW) to get her in and out of bed.  But a province-wide shortage of PSW’s means that while she’s ready to be discharged, she can’t leave.

“The doctor has wanted to kick me out since August of this year,” she joke, “Every time he comes in, he says “What are you still doing here?”

Amy Porteous is with Bruyere Continuing Care, the umbrella organization for Saint Vincent Hospital, “Being in a hospital when they could be at home,” she says, “It’s more preferable that they are getting cared for in their own home.”

There are about 8 other patients like Christine in the same position, according to Chantele LeClerc who is the CEO of the Champlain LHIN, the local health integration network.  These patients are well enough to be discharged but cannot due to a lack of support at home and the cost to both them and the health system is staggering. 

According to statistics from the Champlain LHIN, a continuing care bed at Saint Vincent costs about $560 a day.  An acute care bed is about a thousand a day.  Compare that to a home-care client at less $30 a day.

The problem, though, is attracting people to this profession.

“We don’t have a problem getting nursing organized in a timely way,” says LeClerc, “Really, it’s the support workers.  The challenge has been securing, recruiting and maintaining the amount of personal support workers that’s needed. Over last several years, we have continued to grow home care services we are delivering, but the human resources haven’t kept pace with that.”

She adds that it is not a question of funding, “At the moment in our region, it’s not a financial issue.  We have the funds available to supply more home care services.It’s an issue of the providers who provide the home care on our behalf hiring these individuals and securing their services.”

Salaries are just above the minimum wage level and often the work involves split shifts and extensive travel time.  But there are solutions in the works.  The Champlain LHIN has teamed up with the providers who hire personal support workers to see if there’s a better way to utilize these PSW’s. But that’s a long term solution.

In the short term, Christine Benoit remains at Saint Vincent, waiting and worrying.

“I don’t want to go crazy,” she says, her voice breaking, “My mind right now is probably the only thing that works.”

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List of Tourist Attractions Open Now in Ottawa

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With Ontario now in Step 3 of 2021 three-step plan for reopening, museums and other indoor attractions are allowed to reopen with capacity limited to not exceed 50 per cent capacity indoors and 75 per cent capacity outdoors.

Here is a list of Ottawa attractions you can visit starting July 16th.

Do remember to wear masks and buy tickets in advance.

Parliament Hill

Parliament’s Centre Block and Peace Tower are closed for renovation.

You can join for tours of the Senate of Canada Building (2 Rideau Street), House of Commons at West Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill, and East Block at East Block (111 Wellington Street) on Parliament Hill.

When: Grounds open; guided tours of Parliament are suspended through the summer of 2021.
Where: 111 Wellington Street, Downtown Ottawa

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Ottawa performer leapfrogs from gymnastics to Broadway to TV

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A new AppleTV+ series set in a magical town that’s stuck in a neverending 1940s musical includes a pair of Ottawa siblings in the cast. 

Warren Yang and his sister, Ericka Hunter, play two of the singing, dancing residents of the village portrayed in Schmigadoon!, a small-screen series that takes its cues from classic musicals like Brigadoon, Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music, and skewers them with the offbeat comedic mastery of Saturday Night Live. 

In fact, you’ll recognize many of the names from SNL, starting with executive producer Lorne Michaels, creator of the late-night, live-comedy sketch show. Schmigadoon! also stars SNL cast member Cecily Strong and comedian Keegan-Michael Key, who hosted SNL in May. They play a New York couple who get lost on a hike and stumble into a strange town where everyone sings and dances. 

For Yang, a relative newcomer to show-biz, the series marks his television debut. For Hunter, the younger of his two older sisters, it’s the latest in a career path that began with dance lessons as a child more than 30 years ago. She attended Canterbury High School, Ottawa’s arts-focused secondary school. 

“Her dream was always to perform,” said Yang, 34, in an interview. “But that was never the path I thought was an option for me.” 

While his sister studied dance, Yang did gymnastics. He was an elite gymnast throughout his youth, ultimately leaving Merivale High School at 16 to train in Montreal, finishing high school through correspondence courses. He was a member of the Canadian National Team and received a scholarship to study at Penn State, majoring in marketing. 

A few years after graduation, Yang was working at an advertising agency in Toronto when he got a call from a Manhattan number. To his astonishment, they asked if he would be interested in auditioning for a Broadway revival of Miss Saigon.

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COVID-19: uOttawa to require vaccination for students living in residence

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Vaccination will be mandatory for students who want to live in residence at the University of Ottawa this year, with proof of vaccination and at least one dose required before move-in, or within two weeks of doing so if they can’t secure a shot before arriving.

Those who can’t receive a vaccine for “health-related reasons or other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code” will be able to submit a request for accommodation through the university’s housing portal, according to information on the university’s website.

Students with one dose living in residence will also have to receive their second dose “within the timeframe recommended by Ottawa Public Health.”

People who haven’t been granted an exemption and don’t get vaccinated or submit proof of having done so by the deadlines set out by the school will have their residence agreements terminated, uOttawa warns.

“Medical and health professionals are clear that vaccination is the most (effective) means of protecting people and those around them,” reads a statement provided to this newspaper by uOttawa’s director of strategic communications, Patrick Charette.

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“It is precisely for this reason that the University of Ottawa is requiring all students living in residence for the 2021-2022 academic year to be fully vaccinated. The University recognizes that some students may require accommodations for a variety of reasons and will be treating exceptions appropriately.”

Faculty, staff and students are also strongly encouraged to get vaccinated, the statement notes.

“Ensuring a high vaccine coverage in all communities is critical to ensuring an ongoing decline in cases and ending the pandemic. This will be especially important with the return of students to post-secondary institutions in our region in the fall of 2021.”

Neither Carleton University nor Algonquin College is currently mandating vaccination for students living in residence, according to the websites for both schools. But uOttawa isn’t alone in its policy – Western University, Trent University, Durham College and Fanshawe College have all implemented similar requirements. Seneca College, in the GTA, is going even further, making vaccination mandatory for students and staff to come to campus, in-person, for the fall term.

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