High use of restraints in northern BC

Northern Health's use of restraints is three times higher than the national average

The use of physical restraints in long-term care facilities within Northern Health is three times higher than the national average, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

Restraints include bed rails, chairs that prevent people from rising, as well as trunk and limb restraints. These restraints are sometimes used to manage behaviours or to prevent falls.

According to CIHI, there are many potential physical and psychological risks associated with applying physical restraints to older adults, and such use raises concerns about safety and quality of care.

Although the percentage of physical restraint use in Northern Health facilities has been declining over the past few years -from 29.7 per cent in 2011/12 to 24 per cent in 2015/16 – it still sits well above B.C.’s average of 9.6 per cent and the national average of 7.4 per cent.

The Pines, the only long-term care facility operated by Northern Health in Burns Lake, had a staggering 34.4 per cent of its residents in daily physical restraints in 2012/13. That percentage has been steadily declining over the past few years,however, and now sits at 1.3 per cent.

Andrea Palmer, a spokesperson for Northern Health, said the decrease in reported restraint use at the Pines is partially related to a reduction in the use of restraints, but primarily attributable to education about how to accurately report what a restraint is.

Palmer said Northern Health has had “inaccuracies” with regard to the data provided to CIHI.

“What’s come out is that well-intended staff have been coding restraints that are not actually considered a restraint,” she said. “We’re working on cleaning up those [data] quality issues, making sure that staff is trained particularly around coding and reporting.”

Northern Health has also recently implemented a regular quarterly review of their restraint use so that concerns and issues can be monitored and addressed.

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