Personal support worker shortage still plaguing Ontario nursing homes

A new report released in December showed that Ontario’s personal support workers are suffering from a chronically underfunded long-term care system. The report was based on roundtable discussions held in 2019, which included long-term care home directors, owners, administrators, PSWs, union reps, and other advocates.

Short staffing in the industry has long been a problem in Canada, and elsewhere, which undermines patient care and safety. A survey of 1,200 PSWs released in March 2019 showed alarming levels of violence in long-term care due to persistent understaffing.

Steelworkers in Ontario have been working with different agencies on these issues for quite some time, including Richard Leblanc, who sits on the USW Health Care Workers Council representing District 6. Last fall, Leblanc was able to organize a meeting of local labor unions, health care providers, workers, and members of the Ministry by partnering with Employment Services Centre (ESCPR), a local employment agency in Ontario that works with the government. There they were able to discuss concerns and set goals for improving the industry.

“One of our goals is to make the trade more accessible financially and to promote it better,” Leblanc said. “This will be good for everyone because we need bodies, we need workers.”

The report highlights that PSWs are leaving the industry due to demanding working conditions, poor compensation, high rates of injury and abuse, and lack of full-time work. These problems are not new and not confined to Canada. In the United States, violence in the health care industry has increased 30 percent since 2012.

To watch a video of a long-term home resident speaking on how the worker shortage affects patients and why things must change, click here.

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