Local PSW shortage ‘fair to say’ is in the thousands
The executive director of the Ontario Health Coalition said almost every day in every long-term care home in Windsor-Essex and province-wide, there is a shortage of personal support workers (PSWs) caring for our elderly loved ones.
Natalie Mehra was in Windsor Thursday to discuss the shortage’s impact on long-term care locally. A report by the Ontario Health Coalition called “Caring in Crisis,” recommends the provincial government adopt a minimum of four-hours care per client, increase funding to hire more PSWs and provide free tuition grants to train them.
She estimated the shortage numbers in the hundreds in most towns and thousands in each region.
The co-chair of the Windsor Health Coalition, Patrick Hannon, said the shortage is not only impacting the level of care for clients, it is behind the large number of WSIB claims made by PSWs.
“Epidemic problems have resulted in many more injuries,” he told BlackburnNews.com. “Just by seeing the WSIB claim rates, PSWs in the healthcare sector has the most claims than in any other economic sector across Ontario.”
When one worker is off the job with an illness or injury, Hannon said the risk snowballs for other PSWs.
“When somebody does call in sick, those positions aren’t replaced for that shift,” he explained.
He said PSWs are forced to prioritize clients with a greater acuity over others. When less severe patients do not get the care they need, they suffer more bedsores or can become violent.
Attracting new PSWs to the field has not been an easy task. Hannon pointed out negative media coverage, low wages, the lack of stable full-time work, working conditions, and the lack of support for injured PSWs.
To address the issue, many communities, in partnership with the long-term care homes in their towns, have begun to offer free training.
“The uptake has been lacklustre. Of course, the programs are fairly new,” Hannon expanded. “It’s a great start. Those types of supports aren’t available across the province. It would be great if we could go and standardize those kinds of supports across the province.”
The report was compiled after roundtable discussions across Ontario with home operators and administrators, family councils, seniors, college officials, long-term care advocates, union representatives, and PSWs.
Mehra said the coalition would prefer new long-term care beds are placed in not-for-profit homes. However, it is not advocating for the province to buy back private operations.
“There is no plan to buy back those homes,” she stated.
However, Hannon suggested hiring more PSWs would certainly cost families who have their loved ones in privately run homes more money.