Investment in homecare sector not enough, Ontario Nurses Association says

Jan 25, 2022 | Headlines, News

Staffing shortages continue to decimate Ontario’s homecare sector as calls grow for the government to provide adequate support.

Home Care Ontario said Monday that about 4,000 nurses have left the home care profession.

However, Angela Preocanin, vice-president of the Ontario Nurses Association, said the province is actually short around 22,000 registered nurses.

“We have the worst nurse to patient ratio in the country,” she said.

The ONA will formally submit its pre-budget submission to the government Wednesday.

“We have nine concrete actions to address this shortage including having more full-time RN positions,” Preocanin said.

The association says Ontario’s nursing shortage dates back decades.

“The pandemic has certainly made it worse,” Preocanin said. “Now the repercussions of that are now being surfaced with COVID.”

In response to the shortage, Ontario’s Ministry of Health said in a statement Tuesday that it “is committed to ensuring that Ontarians have access to the homecare services they need.”

The province has invested more than $1.3 billion to temporarily enhance wages for personal support workers and direct support workers.

The ministry also said in the statement that the investment “helps stabilize, attract and retain the workforce needed to provide a high level of care during the pandemic.”

However, despite the investments from the government, Ontario Liberal MPP John Fraser noted the imbalance of homecare in Ontario’s health network.

“The government has leaned into very much hospitals and long-term care, and the homecare section needs a strategy,” Fraser said. “Not only from a financial support benefit end of things, but also applying to recruitment.”

During the pandemic, the government made calls for more support in hospitals and long-term care while homecare was left to their own devices.

“I don’t think the government looked at it as a system that required support,” Fraser said.

Sara Singh, the NDP’s critic for long-term care, said in a statement Monday that “the staffing shortage is devastating. If it’s not last-minute cancellations, it’s personal support workers forced to rush through appointments because they’re pressed for time. Sadly, if people aren’t getting the support they need to remain in their home, it can land them in the hospital, or even force them to move into a long-term care home.”

With a provincial election to be held in June, Singh mentioned the NDP’s plan to deal with the shortage.

“We’re committed to building a completely not-for-profit and public system, and making PSW positions in it full-time with decent wages and benefits. That way, we can guarantee a PSW will be there to care for your loved one when they need it, and more seniors will be able to live out their golden years in their own family home.”

Fraser mentioned that the Ontario Liberals will address the shortage in their platform once it comes out in a couple of months. However, he said that their platform will address higher wages, better benefits and better pensions.