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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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Students call on University of Ottawa to implement pass/fail grading amid pandemic

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OTTAWA — The University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU) is calling on the university to introduce optional, one-course-only pass/fail grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 semesters amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The students’ union said nearly 5,000 uOttawa students have signed its petition supporting the grading system.

In a letter to the university, the UOSU said it is asking the school to make changes to the grading structure, including allowing one course per semester to be converted to the “pass” or “satisfactory” designation.

The UOSU also made recommendations regarding a reduction of workload and course delivery.

“The adaptation to online learning during the pandemic for students has created unique challenges and disruptions that could not have been anticipated,” wrote Tim Gulliver, the UOSU’s Advocacy Commissioner. 

“The use of flexible compassionate grading options has been introduced in other universities, such as Carleton University which includes a use of Pass/Fail which we feel could be implemented at the University of Ottawa.”

Carleton University approved the use of flexible and compassionate grading for the Fall 2020 and Winter 2021 terms in early November.

The UOSU also called for all grades that constitute a fail to appear as “Not Satisfactory” on their transcript, which would not be included in grade point average calculations. 

The union represents more than 38,000 undergraduate students at the University of Ottawa.

In a response to CTV News, the University of Ottawa said it is aware of the petition.

“Last spring a decision was made by the (University) Senate to allow the Satisfactory/Non Satisfactory mark to be used, given the unique circumstances of the pandemic, which hit us close to the end of the Winter 2020 semester. The University is aware of the petition and is looking into the matter.”

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OPP warn of phone scams in Ottawa Valley

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Upper Ottawa Valley OPP warn residents of a phone scam that’s been making its way through the region recently. 

Police say a scammer pretends to be from a local business and tells the person their credit card didn’t work on a recent purchase before asking the person on the phone to confirm their credit card number. 

The victim may not have even used the card at the store, but police said the scammer creates a sense of urgency. 

Police remind residents to verify the legitimacy of any caller before providing any personal information over the phone. 

Similar scams have been reported recently in the region, according to police, with scammers posing as police officers, Revenue Canada or other government agencies demanding payment for a variety of reasons. A Social Insurance Number scam has also been reported recently, where a victim is asked for their SIN number under threat of being arrested. 
 
If a scam artist contacts you or if you have been defrauded, you’re asked to contact police or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or visit their website at www.antifraudcentre.ca.

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The human history of Ottawa Valley is thousands of years old. Archeologists may have found a piece of it on Parliament Hill

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OTTAWA—Archeologists working on Parliament Hill have discovered a relic of Indigenous life that one Algonquin leader sees as a symbol of his people’s long history in what is now the heart of Canadian political power.

The jagged stone point was unearthed last year on the east side of Centre Block, but its discovery was not publicized as officials worked with Algonquin communities to authenticate the object, the Star has learned.

Stephen Jarrett, the lead archeologist for the ongoing renovation of Parliament’s Centre Block, said this week that while such an object is “not an uncommon find,” the stone point joins just a small handful of Indigenous artifacts ever discovered on Parliament Hill.

“It’s about the size of my palm, and it could be used as a knife or a projectile,” Jarrett said this week in response to inquiries from the Star.

He said the point is made of chert, a type of sedimentary stone most often used for implements of this type. And while the point was unearthed in what Jarrett calls “disturbed soil” — earth that has been dug up and moved, most likely during construction of Parliament — the soil it was in “is natural to the site.”

That means “it came from a source nearby, but finding exactly where it came from is impossible,” Jarrett said.

For Douglas Odjick, a band council member responsible for education and culture with the Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, this artifact of “an original world” is a testament to the longevity of his Algonquin nation in an area they still claim as unceded and unsurrendered territory. Based on the assessment of Ian Badgley, the top archeologist with the National Capital Commission, Odjick said the stone point is likely 4,000 years old and dates to a time when the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau and Rideau Rivers — along with all their tributaries that stretch out into the surrounding area — served as a great hub of regional trade activity.

“It symbolizes who we are and how long we’ve been here,” Odjick said, comparing the area to an ancient version of a busy hub like New York’s busy Grand Central Station.

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