Toronto, Dec. 09, 2019 - The Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) released a new report
today developed in partnership with UNIFOR on the Personal Support Worker (PSW)
crisis in Ontario's long-term care homes. The report "Caring in Crisis: Ontario's
Long-Term Care PSW Shortage" is available on the OHC website
here. In a press conference at the Ontario Legislature, Natalie Mehra, Executive
Director of the Health Coalition noted that we chose the word "crisis" carefully.
The situation is so extreme that funded long-term care beds cannot be opened because
there are not enough PSWs to provide the care.
The report is based on eight round-table meetings held across Ontario over the last
year, including more than 350 participants including home operators and administrators,
PSWs, union representatives, family councils, seniors, college staff who develop/coordinate
PSW courses, local health coalitions and other long-term care advocates.
"The conditions of work are the conditions of care for residents," said Natalie
Mehra. She emphasized, "The PSW staffing crisis is real. Every long-term care home,
every shift, in the north and in the south, rural and urban, we are hearing the
same thing from hundreds of front-line staff, families of residents and home operators.
PSWs have taken heavier-care and more complex patients year after year, risking
injury and harm, without pay and working conditions that are commensurate to the
work. Most of the tools to fix this situation are in the hands of the provincial
government which instead of acting urgently to fix the crisis, is actually cutting
Shortages mean that homes are working with one to two vacancies in every area. That
might mean that they are trying to operate 5-10 staff short, or in some larger homes,
they reported that they are 20-50 PSWs short. Work is rushed and stressful. Injuries
are common. Compensation is too low for the heavy work burden. The impact of the
critical staffing shortages on workload, quality of life and quality of care is
profound. The report also finds that as a result of these conditions there is declining
enrollment in PSW courses in colleges.
The Health Coalition made a set of initial recommendations to alleviate the PSW
crisis in long-term care homes including:
- Increased funding directed to improve PSW staffing levels, wages and working conditions;
- A minimum care standard;
- A provincial human resource recruitment and retention plan with concrete timelines;
- Tuition reductions and grants for PSW college programs;
"Every step of the way, we heard that PSWs face impossible workloads and heavy physical
labour that leads to preventable injuries. These unsafe conditions, paired with
low pay, precarious working conditions and few or no benefits must end," said Jerry
Dias, UNIFOR National President. "I challenge Premier Doug Ford to spend a shift
at a long-term care home in Ontario with me to witness the dangerous and disrespectful
conditions that seniors in care must live with."