Ontario Liberals must address flaws in health policy, cost-cutting and low pay for PSWs to fully recognize their contribution.
TORONTO – Wednesday, May 16, marked the third annual Personal Support Workers Recognition Day in Ontario. But many Personal Support Workers (PSWs), health care aides (HCAs) and registered practical nurses (RPNs) are doubting the Ontario Liberals’ sincerity when it comes to valuing the contribution they make to supporting the sick and the elderly.
Despite a growing and aging population, and with 29,000 Ontarians waiting for a long-term care (LTC) bed and 10,000 more on waitlists for home care, “the Dalton McGuinty Liberals intend to slash spending for health services. More hospital beds and staff will be cut while there is no increase in LTC beds and only a slight increase in home care services in the community,” says Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario.
PSWs, RPNs and HCAs provide direct patient and resident care in all health care settings. Although 57,000 PSWs work in the long-term care sector, 26,000 in home care and 7,000 in hospitals, the “quality of care is jeopardized by chronically low staffing levels in all settings. Simply put, we need more direct care support, not more cuts,” says Susan Schmidt, CUPE Ontario Health Care Workers Coordinating Committee chair.
In Ontario, CUPE represents more than 20,000 PSWs. Research shows that, on average, there are lower staffing levels and poorer quality care in health services delivered for-profit than in home care and LTC where, respectively, nearly 70 percent and over 51 percent of service is for-profit.
Last February at Queen’s Park, CUPE held a briefing for MPPs about the detrimental impacts of
for-profit provision and compulsory contracting out in home care on service quality and the working conditions including dismally low wages for home care staff.
Despite academic studies showing a marked deterioration in the quality of home care for recipients under compulsory contracting out, “the Liberals have not addressed the quality care issues that result from contract competition,” says Michael Hurley, president of CUPE’s Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU).
The home care sector has a staff turnover rate of 57 percent. “Caregivers flee for secure employment with benefits and a living wage in the institutional sector,” adds Hurley.
CUPE intends to celebrate the work of PSWs over the entire year, not just on one day.
“If the province is genuine about recognizing the contribution PSWs make they should end home care compulsory contracting out and ensure decent working conditions and wages for PSWs,” says Hurley.
Watch CUPE’s video Who Cares: The Future of Ontario’s Home Care about the home care sector under for-profit provision and compulsory contracting out
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