Report says more personal support workers are needed and they need to be better paid
Sudbury advocates, families and representatives of frontline workers in long-term care are coming together to raise the alarm.
A new report on critical staffing shortages in long-term care released Monday called the situation is dire.
Caring in Crisis: Ontario’s long-term care PSW shortage, a report written by the Ontario Health Coalition and commissioned by Unifor, examines the crisis amongst personal support workers in Ontario’s long-term care homes.
Sudbury is one of the communities the Coalition is visiting to hold roundtables, upon which the findings of the report are based. A meeting to discuss the report in detail will be held in Sudbury on Thursday, 10 a.m., at Sudbury Indie Cinema Co-op, 162 MacKenzie St.
“The staffing shortages described in Sudbury and the surrounding region are shocking and severe,” Melissa Wood, co-chair of the Sudbury Health Coalition, said. “Staffing shortages are threatening the safety and care of residents and harming staff. The crisis cannot be solved locally alone. Action needs to be taken by our provincial government to solve this problem.
“We are calling for increased funding directed to improve PSW staffing levels, wages and working conditions. We’re calling for a minimum care standard, and for support when caring for violent and aggressive residents. Free tuition grants and other measures are needed to attract people to this work. These are practical solutions that can be implemented right away by the Ford government.”
PSWs are on the front lines, providing much of the daily hands-on care for approximately 80,000 long-term care residents in Ontario. It is no overstatement to call the situation a crisis, the coalition said. Long-term care homes reported they are working with shortages on almost all shifts, every day. These shortages mean there are not enough PSWs to staff existing beds, let alone the planned new beds that are urgently needed to address long waitlists, the coalition said.
“In Sudbury, shortages are happening every day and on virtually all shifts. PSWs are passionate about their jobs and want to do everything they can to help our seniors in long-term care but are forced out of the sector because wages have remained too low for too long and working conditions are becoming increasingly difficult,” said Marcel Charron, president of Mine Mill Local 598/Unifor. “Workers are getting injured on the job because they don’t have the support they need. They are often left without any other choice but to find a different job.”
The report is based on the input and feedback from roundtable meetings held across Ontario, which were attended by home operators and administrators; PSWs; union representatives; family councils; seniors; college staff who develop and co-ordinate PSW courses; local health coalitions; and other long-term care advocates.
“PSWs in Sudbury and the surrounding regions often go above and beyond for residents. But still, residents often do not get the care they need. Why? Because there are not enough PSWs,” Terry Martyn, a family council member said. “This means the levels of care are insufficient.
“As a result, residents sometimes don’t receive their baths on time, individual care is limited and lacks continuity, and mealtimes are often rushed. Many residents spend hours alone with very little socialization, especially on the weekends and in the evening. Without repositioning, residents develop bedsores.
“When care is rushed, the risk for errors and injuries increases significantly for both the residents and staff.”
The report includes first-hand accounts of how the crisis is impacting local communities and their long- term care homes, as well as recommendations to restore stability to this vital long-term care workforce.