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Patients in long-term care homes in Quebec fear lack of attendants for second bath

Is Quebec’s new two-bath rule feasible?
WATCH: The Quebec government has said it plans on providing people in long-term care homes with two baths a week. But as Global's Raquel Fletcher reports, critics say there is a major shortage of personal care attendants and wonder how the government is going to make good on its promise.

People in long-term care homes – and their loved ones, are calling out Quebec for its plan to provide two baths a week. They say there is a major shortage of personal care attendants.

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Quebec City resident, Mary Robertson says she was excited when the government recently announced it had freed up $36 million to give an extra bath a week to people in care homes.

“A bath is not just a bath,” she explained. “A bath is a therapeutic experience for old people, or at least it should be. I mean, we all like to lie in a warm bath and relax.”

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Robertson’s husband, William lives with Parkinson’s disease and dementia at a long-term care facility in Quebec City.

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“He’s an aeronautical engineer, you know, super bright,” she said. “So it’s kind of sad to see him deteriorate, but we want to give him as much of an enriched life as we can give him.”

READ MORE: Disabled Quebec man fights for right to shower 3 times a week

The fight for a second bath a week has been an ongoing issue for years. The government now says it will hire 600 more personal care attendants to give the extra baths.

However, users groups across the province are skeptical the government will be able to do that.

“In all Quebec, there’s a lack of workers for that kind of category of work,” said Pierre Blain, executive director of Regroupement provincial des comité des usagers (RPCU).

READ MORE: Alberta mandates two baths a week for continuing care residents

In Quebec City, Blain said there is already a shortage of 300 attendants.

Robertson knows this first hand. She uses part of her retirement savings to hire extra private care for her husband to help feed him, give him a daily shower and walk him.

William Robertson with his grandson at Saint Brigid’s Home in Quebec City
William Robertson with his grandson at Saint Brigid’s Home in Quebec City Raquel Fletcher/Global News

The user groups say low salaries make these positions hard to fill. They’re also worried a rush to hire will mean facilities stop requiring the full six-month training.

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“Since the establishment doesn’t have enough people, they did it only five weeks,” Blain said.

The health minister refuted these concerns.

“The message today for the population is that there are jobs available in that area. We are willing to provide training in different manners and we will hire the necessary orderlies to provide that bath,” said Health Minister Gaetan Barrette.

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Robertson hopes this goal of having two baths a week will start to change the mentality about how we provide long-term care:

“That we aren’t going to have warehouses for death – that we are going to make these residences enriched environments for people,” she said.

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First, the government has to hire more personnel. Minister Barrette did not have no timeline for when that will be done.