Long-term care staffing in Ontario remains far below pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels. The gravity of the staffing shortage requires a substantive and comprehensive recruitment, training and retention workforce strategy, say health care unions representing approximately 70,000 personal support workers (PSWs).
Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction from what was announced just 48 hours ago, but it lacks the comprehensive strategy required to hire the requisite number of PSWs to reach the goal of four hours of hands-on care per resident per day that seniors need for dignified, quality care. Paid training and free tuition for workers, most of whom are women, is much needed news and will help remove a barrier for those considering becoming PSWs.
Key among the strategy to retain workers must be a plan to turn part-time work into full-time jobs, as well as a living wage to ensure PSWs have the financial security they need to make this essential work a career. The temporary PSW wage enhancement is set to expire in just a few weeks and must be made permanent for all.
“Without a commitment to workers in the care economy, Ontario’s most vulnerable seniors will continue to wait for the care they deserve. After shouldering the crushing weight of the pandemic, PSWs deserve no less than a living wage and they should receive it right away. Our ability to recruit the PSWs we need is directly correlated to the conditions of work, so let’s get that done.” – Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare
“With the province losing thousands of PSWs to attrition each year, the announcement of 6,000 trainees is only the tip of what’s needed. The province must commit to additional investments to train the tens of thousands of PSWs that are required to address the crisis at the bedside. They must also implement a comprehensive retention strategy that addresses the abysmal working conditions in our long-term care homes.”– Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE Ontario
“We have been calling on the government to provide fast-tracked, paid PSW training in our public colleges, and it appears with today’s announcement they are beginning to listen. We know that 6,000 PSWs is just the start of what is needed so getting those numbers up even higher is critical, along with making sure the conditions of work in the long-term care sector improve, including access to full-time work and better wages and benefits. Retention must be a high priority as well, and ensuring we recognize and support the front-line workers who have carried an enormous burden through this pandemic.” – Jerry Dias, Unifor National President