Hired reviewer has mostly praise for Sunnybrook veterans centre

TORONTO – A reviewer hired by Canada’s largest veterans centre in light of several care complaints has mostly praise for the facility.

The review released today finds the Sunnybrook veterans centre to be a leader in the quality of care it provides.

At the same time, the report urges the facility to come up with specific plans for high needs families and to minimize resident transfers.

The review follows complaints from relatives about what they see as substandard care of the most frail veterans in the 500-bed facility.

Sunnybrook CEO Dr. Barry McLellan says the report mentions several examples of excellent care, and is taking steps to implement recommendations for improvement.

A federal audit that was done in response to the families’ concerns has yet to be finalized.

Last fall, several relatives stepped forward to complain about how their loved ones were being cared for.

Among other things, they complained about delayed and missed feedings, residents left languishing for hours in soiled diapers, dirty rooms and frequent patient moves.

Relatives were especially unhappy about how management dealt with their concerns, saying they were shut down and intimidated when they pressed issues.

In her review carried out last month, Karima Velji said she found no “systemic gaps” related to care or to safety and patient-relation mechanisms.

However, the senior executive at Baycrest — a research hospital focused on the elderly — did validate at least some of the complaints.

Among other things, she found Sunnybrook moves residents more often than many other facilities.

She urged the moves be minimized, noting the centre is “home” to the veterans.

In common with relatives’ complaints, some nurses also expressed concerns to Velji about staffing levels, particularly in the afternoons and during off-hours.

“They related meal times as being amongst the busiest times on the unit and expressed a need for meal time support,” the review states.

“Some staff members felt the access to equipment and supplies could be improved on some units. Staff related the need for more environmental cleanliness and support.”

Veljo also identified damaged and strained relations between Sunnybrook and relatives of residents.

Some nurses even complained they were being spied on by the many private caregivers families feel the need to hire.

“The veterans centre should implement enhanced approaches to address the needs of families from admission onwards,” Velji said.

“The program should consider a stronger adoption of the philosophy of ‘admitting a resident means admitting their loved ones’.”

Family members who had raised the complaints were still digesting the report and had no immediate comment.

Both the federal and provincial governments fund the veterans centre, although the province has washed its hands of the complaints, saying oversight is entirely Ottawa’s responsibility.

A spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney said the federal government would take the necessary time to review the findings of Velji’s report.