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Critical shortage of PSWs in long-term care facilities: Ontario Health Coalition report

A new report by the Ontario Health Coalition paints a crisis in long-term care facilities across Ontario.
According to the report, there is a critical shortage of personal support workers to care for the growing number of residents — a problem that could be magnified as more beds open this year.

A new report out Tuesday by the Ontario Health Coalition paints a grim picture inside long-term care facilities across Ontario.

According to the report, there is a critical shortage of personal support workers (PSWs) across the province to care for the growing number of residents — a problem that could be magnified as more beds open this year.

“If you don’t have someone close to you in long-term care, this issue may not be on your radar,” Lesley Donald said at a press conference on Tuesday.

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Donald’s husband has been in long-term care for the last three years.

“In licensed daycares, there are minimum legal staffing levels, to keep our kids safe and happy,” says Donald.

“Families pay thousands of dollars a month for care, but yet there are no minimum staffing standards for long-term care homes.”

According to the report, titled ‘Caring in Crisis – Ontario’s Long-Term Care PSW Shortage,’ PSWs provide most of the hands-on daily care of approximately 80,000 long-term care residents across Ontario.

In Kingston, there are five long-term care facilities, with 1,055 beds — with a current ratio of two PSWs to every 24 patients.

“We should have four PSWs for 24 people,” says Dawn Harris, chair of the Family Council Network of Kingston and Area.

“It should be closer to a one-to-six or a one-to-four ratio,” says John Goldthorp with the United Steel Workers.

“One to six is the ratio for daycare. To me it is very analogous to daycare,” adds Donald.

READ MORE: ‘It just gets worse’ — Resident, families, former staff voice care concerns at Ontario nursing home

Conservative MPP David Piccini, who represents the riding of Northumberland-Peterborough South, blamed his predecessors for the problem.

“The problems we are seeing from the human resources standpoint have metastasized over the last decade of inactivity from the previous Liberal government,” he said.

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The Ontario government has committed $72 million more to long-term care across the province this year, $19.4 million of that for PSWs.

That equates to 300 new beds for Kingston and region.

The panel at Tuesday’s press conference says the funding model has to change to be able to pay for new PSW workers.

“The dollars and cents are not enough,” says Goldthorp. “The funding model is wrong when it comes to these homes.

“They don’t get enough for the care they have to provide. And the care is more complex than it ever has been.”

PSWs in Ontario earn, on average, a wage of just $16.50 an hour.