In celebration of Personal Support Worker Day on May 19th, 2015 Unifor salutes the contributions of the thousands of Unifor members employed as Personal Support Workers. Personal support workers are critical front line care providers in our health care system and the largest group of health care workers in Ontario’s long-term care and home care sector.
There are an estimated 90,000 personal support workers in Ontario with some 57,000 providing care in long-term care homes; another 7,000 personal support workers providing care in hospitals and 26,000 providing care in home care through community health agencies.
The work duties of personal support workers are as varied as the needs and health conditions of the clients/residents/patients they care for and the settings in which they provide that care. PSWs provide the majority of direct care to frail elderly residents in long-term care or clients receiving home care. Increasingly they also provide care to vulnerable non-elderly adults incapable of self-care with physical; developmental and/or mental disabilities in long-term care homes or through home care supports.
The care provided may range from assisting in the tasks of daily living (such as personal hygiene, transferring clients from bed, taking medication or doing light housework) to delegated procedures (such as changing dressings, tube feedings and oxygen therapy).
Personal support workers are indispensable members of the patient care team and their care work and human touch is enormously critical and appreciated by residents and clients. However, low staffing levels remain a critical concern in long-term care.
For decades, report after report has documented how inadequate staffing levels directly impacts quality of care and resident quality of life and staff quality of work-life. In the beleaguered home care sector, access to and insufficient hours of care for clients and precarious employment for workers have plagued the sector. “This year, the Ontario government must ensure as a priority that their investment in the PSW workforce serves to enhance PSW employment conditions”, said Jerry Dias, national president of Unifor, which represents more than 26,000 healthcare workers in Ontario, including PSWs.
“That requires a regulatory minimum enforceable standard for hours of care provided in long-term care homes where PSWs provide two-thirds of nursing and personal care hours. That also requires the province implement and fund for a minimum hourly wage of PSWs in home care of $16.50 by April 1, 2016 to ensure greater parity and more job stability for those already in the job and to attract more young people to become PSWs.”
Dias said a welcome next step would be for the province to end the practice of requiring companies to bid for the home care contracts, which has put downward pressure on wages and conditions of employment. "When it comes to caring for our parents and grandparents, we shouldn't be in a race to the bottom to provide as little care as cheaply as possible," said Dias.