In an effort to keep their agency’s home care program from closing, personal support workers (PSWs) who provide care to more than 1500 infirm and elderly, inner city patients will rally at 11:30 a.m. today in front of the Ontario ministry of health offices (80 Grosvenor Street, across from Queen’s Park).
The Neighbourhood Group the multi-service community agency the PSWs work for often services low income or difficult to care for patients in central Toronto. Program PSWs speak dozens of different languages that reflect Toronto’s diversity and are often the lifeline for many isolated clients.
“Sometimes we visit our patients up to five times a day. We know them well. They trust us and we are like family to them. Those relationships would be severed if the home care program at our agency closes,” says Charmaine Kelegan one of 218 Neighbourhood Group PSWs who will be put out of work if the agency walks away from its home care contract and the program closes.
In January 2014 Kelegan wrote in the Toronto Star about PSW home care working conditions. Premier Kathleen Wynne responded to Kelegan by promising improvements in the rate of pay and hours of work for PSWs.
Although the province has given some monies to increase PSW wages, provincial rates to operate the full home care program that includes all the other staff that support program delivery like case managers, schedulers and of course office and utility costs have been frozen for the last five years. Each year the agency has made a variety of staff and (other) program cuts to balance their budget, but they are now hitting a funding wall.
The potential closure of the Neighbourhood Group home care program is happening at a time when the province is hinging health reforms on its “Patients First” initiative, premised on the expansion of home and community care.
“Our employer has asked us to cut our benefits so that they may survive. Without that concession they say they will have to close the home care program. But PSWs shouldn’t be paying for the gap in provincial funding and what home care actually costs to deliver. We want our health minister to help keep our home care program open,” says Kelegan.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) 7797 represents the 218 Neighbourhood Group PSWs.
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