Thunder Bay – Thunder Bay advocates, families, and representatives of front-line workers in long-term care came together to raise the alarm today.
At a press conference held in Thunder Bay at the Unifor Headquarters, they released a new report on critical staffing shortages in long-term care.
Speakers spoke about the gravity of the situation. Caring in Crisis: Ontario’s Long-Term Care PSW Shortage, a report written by the Ontario Health Coalition and commissioned by Unifor, examines the Personal Support Worker (PSW) crisis in Ontario’s long-term care homes.
Thunder Bay is one of the communities the Health Coalition visited to hold roundtables, upon which the findings of the report are based. PSWs are on the front lines, providing much of the daily hands-on care for approximately 80,000 long-term care residents in Ontario. It is no overstatement to call the situation a crisis. Long-term care homes reported that they are working with shortages on almost all shifts, every day. The shortages mean that there are not enough PSWs to staff existing beds let alone the planned new beds that are urgently needed to address long waitlists.
The report is based on the input and feedback from roundtable meetings held across Ontario attended by 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 report includes first-hand accounts of how the crisis is impacting local communities and their long- term care homes, and recommendations to restore stability to the vital long-term care workforce.
“The situation in Thunder Bay is critical. Staffing shortages are threatening the safety and care of residents and harming staff too. The crisis cannot be solved locally alone. This means that action needs to be taken by our provincial government to solve this problem,” emphasized Jules Tupker, co-chair of the Thunder Bay Health Coalition. “We are calling for increased funding directed to improve PSW staffing levels, wages and working conditions, for a minimum care standard, for support for violent and aggressive residents’ care, for free tuition or grants, and other measures. These are practical solutions that can be implemented right away by the Ford government.”
“In Thunder Bay and the surrounding regions, our long-term care homes are working short-staffed in virtually every home, every day, every shift. Here in Thunder Bay, our Personal Support Workers are passionate about their jobs and want to do everything they can to help our seniors in long-term care but they are forced out of the sector because wages have remained too low for too long and working conditions are becoming increasingly difficult,” noted Kari Jefford, President of Unifor Local 229. “Our workers are literally getting injured on the job because they don’t have the support they need, and so they are often left without any other choice but to find a different job.”
“I have tremendous respect for PSWs and for the work that they do. They often go above and beyond for residents. I’ve seen this consistently in long-term care homes in Thunder Bay and the surrounding areas. But still, residents often do not get the care they need. Why? Because there are not enough PSWs. This means that the levels of care are insufficient. As a result, residents may not be receiving baths, oral care, or their feeding sessions may be rushed. Without repositioning, residents develop bedsores. When care is rushed the risk for errors and injuries increases significantly,” explained Don Murray, president of a local Family Council.