Evelyn Fitzgerald feels let down by Nova Scotia’s home-care program.
The Dartmouth woman’s sister, Mary Smith of Porters Lake, has received home care since leaving hospital in February 2016 after suffering a stroke.
Fitzgerald related a string of incidents over that period, from home-care workers simply not showing up — 22 days in December — or leaving after 15 minutes when they were supposed to be there for two hours.
“She was supposed to get three visits a day because she can’t get in or out of bed,” Fitzgerald said in a recent interview. “The girls were coming in whenever they felt like coming in. . . . It’s not that we (family) mind backing up the girls, I understand that somebody gets sick, yes definitely. But not 22 times in a month.”
As a result, Smith has been confined some days to her bed from 6 p.m. until late the next morning, her laundry has gone unwashed and she’s gone for long periods without a bath, Fitzgerald said. “Once she’s out of bed, she can go to the bathroom by herself but she can’t get in the bathtub by herself . . . she has a lift but she still has to transfer from her chair onto this lift to get her in the tub.
“I can’t say all of them (staff ) are bad because some are good, they’re very, very good. But the ones that don’t care are being sent to her now and they really don’t (care).”
The family has complained to CBI We Care and the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s continuing care department, which oversees home-care in the province, since last fall. But the problems persist, Fitzgerald said.
“I’m not one to push buttons or to expect her to have any special (treatment), I don’t, but I do expect her to get her care when it’s supposed to be there. . . . This is just my sister. How many more? It’s not fair, it’s just not fair, that these companies are getting away with this.”
CBI We Care did not respond to a phone message and email requesting comment.
In an email Tuesday, Susan Stephen, the NSHA’s director of continuing care, said the authority is “committed to ensuring that Nova Scotians receive the quality home care services they need.”
“If a client is unsatisfied with his or her level or quality of service we want to know about it. We encourage them to express their concerns to the agency in question and also to their NSHA continuing care coordinator so that we can work together to resolve the issue.
“While home care providers aim to provide consistent workers and a reliable service there are sometimes challenges due to circumstances such as weather events or staffing issues. In a situation where this was an ongoing issue impacting a client’s care, we would expect the home care provider to work with the individual and continuing care coordinator to put alternate plans in place to meet the clients’ needs.”
In his most recent report in November, auditor general Michael Pickup criticized the province’s oversight of home care. He said the province hadn’t taken action to address recommendations made in 2008 on issues including: a lack of home care staff could limit meeting future demand; no quality assurance process for client assessment decisions; not knowing if hours reported by providers are accurate and complete.
In the email, Stephen said the authority is working closely with CBI We Care and other homecare providers “to make sure people are receiving the care they need and that providers are meeting all aspects of our contract with them.”
She said the health authority amended their home-care service agreements in April to include nine performance indicators and reporting requirements to improve access, efficiency, quality and sustainability. She also said work is underway on “the development of a formal, comprehensive and consistent performance monitoring system.”