03/17/2013 05:04 EDT | Updated 05/17/2013 05:12 EDT

Nursing home death triggers call for inquest

TORONTO - Two organizations that represent employees in nursing homes are calling for a coroner's inquest into the death of a resident of a Toronto long-term care facility.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario say an inquest would bring awareness to some ongoing problems in Ontario's long-term healthcare system.

"These are our mothers, fathers and grandparents. If you're not outraged by these issues, you are not paying attention," said Candace Rennick, CUPE Secretary-Treasurer.

A 72-year-old woman, Joycelyn Dickson, was found dead at the Toronto facility last Wednesday. Another 91-year-old woman was injured.

Police have charged another resident of the facility, Peter Roy Brooks, 72, with second degree murder and aggravated assault.

The suspect made a brief appearance in court last week and was to return to court April 4.

Dickson's death reflects a lack of staff and funding for Ontario long-term care facilities, Rennick said, adding the problem is aggravated by the number of patients in long-term care residences who need extensive care.

The facilities are not only for the elderly, but also to patients with brain injuries and mental health issues, Rennick said. It's because often these patients can't get better care in their communities and must settle for long-term care facilities.

Doris Grinspun, the CEO of the Registered Nurses Association, predicts the strain on the system will become more and more of an issue as the population ages.

"We need to push the political will to do what needs to be done," she said.

According to Statistics Canada, Ontario spends $155.30 per long term care resident a day. This is far less than Quebec, at $254.30; Saskatchewan, at $216.70; and Alberta, at $201.80, said CUPE officials in a news release.

Health Minister Deb Matthews wouldn't comment directly on the call for an inquest, but issued a statement saying police and the Ministry of Health are investigating.

"Every long-term care home is required to have a written staffing plan to ensure a staffing mix that is consistent with their residents’ assessed care and safety needs, and they are expected to have appropriate staffing levels at day and night," she said in the emailed statement.

"The government has a put a rigorous new inspection process in place to ensure that patients are getting the care they need."