Ontario’s healthcare system at risk as Ford government fails to address worsening health human resource crisis

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Katha Fortier, Unifor, Sharleen Stewart, SEIU Healthcare, Candace Rennick, CUPE

Union leaders from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, SEIU Healthcare, and Unifor were joined by a frontline healthcare worker at a media conference on Tuesday to demand an urgent and comprehensive strategy from the Ford government to address the worsening health human resource crisis in Ontario that is leaving seniors and patients without the staffing levels they need.

Last week, the Ford government announced that new and recently hired personal support workers (PSWs) and nurses would be incentivized with up to $10,000 to work in retirement homes—an almost entirely private, for-profit system. This program ignores those working in hospital, long-term care and homecare settings, and offers no respect or appreciation to those who have spent the past 18 months risking their lives on the frontline.

This announcement comes as the temporary $3 per hour enhancement for PSWs is set to expire on August 23, 2021 – an incentive that excludes PSWs working in retirement homes and all others working in healthcare settings, including nurses, dietary, clerical, and housekeeping staff.

Healthcare workers and their unions have been sounding the alarm for years about the staffing situation facing the sector, which has become a crisis during the pandemic as more and more choose to leave their profession due poor working conditions and low wages. While urgent action is needed, the Ford government continues to make reactionary decisions that won’t solve healthcare’s recruitment and retention issues.

Quotes:

“Premier Ford’s continued failure to implement a coherent recruitment and retention strategy means that seniors and patients are going without the care they need because of dangerously low staffing levels. Burnt-out and exploited staff mean longer wait times, never ending hallway healthcare, and clinical mistakes from exhausted minds and bodies. Ontario has no comprehensive health human resource strategy. It makes no sense, it’s a mess, and our province’s healthcare workers can’t take it anymore.” – Sharleen Stewart, President, SEIU Healthcare

“Incentive programs like this, fix absolutely nothing. In fact they potentially can make things far worse. We’ve asked this government to work with us to develop a comprehensive human resource strategy that encompasses retirement homes, home care, long-term care and hospitals.” - Katha Fortier, Assistant to National President and Unifor lead health care negotiator.

"For years, retirement home operators, almost exclusively operating for profit, have exploited their workforce by intentionally driving down wages and working conditions. This latest move by the Conservatives is a shameful attempt to bail out the private operators using public funds while they continue to reap massive profits. Once again, this government has resorted to piece meal approaches rather than implementing a real wage, recruitment and workforce strategy that will put an end to the gross exploitation of the home care workforce." – Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer, CUPE Ontario

For more information please contact:

Corey Johnson, SEIU Healthcare Communications, @email, 416-529-8909

Hamid Osman, Unifor Communications, @email, 647-448-2823

Aline Patcheva, CUPE Communications, @email, 514-825-4443