Staffing shortages in Ontario’s home-care sector have left it in a crisis, an organization that represents home care service providers said Monday.
Home Care Ontario said that about 4,000 nurses have left the home care profession since the beginning of the pandemic.
“I have never seen anything like it in my entire career,” Sue VanderBent, Chief Executive Officer of Home Care Ontario, told Humber News.
“There are no longer enough nurses and personal support workers to provide people with the care they need at home.”
VanderBent also said that since there’s not enough staff available, there has been an overwhelming amount of calls without the necessary amount of staff to respond to.
“It has left thousands of vulnerable Ontario residents without home-care,” VanderBent said.
The spread of the Omicron variant has resulted in a high number of staff absences as workers are exposed to or infected with the virus.
Home-care providers are paid less than personal support workers in hospitals as well as long-term care workers. That gap has widened with the province’s efforts to add more front-line workers during the pandemic. Workers in those two settings earn $5 an hour more than home care workers.
Almon Prem, the owner of the Right at Home Care Office in Toronto, said that he has faced staff shortages like other agencies.
“It’s been challenging,” Prem said. “It’s even worse knowing that so many people aren’t getting the care they need.”
Despite the shortage, he has continued to make sure his team offers in-home care.
“We have a wonderful and dedicated staff that continue their work,” Prem said. “Home care is extremely important to the province’s health network, now more than ever.”
Home Care Ontario has requested to the province $460 million to address the wage inequality.
VanderBent is urging the government to prioritize home-care funding to support its health system.
“The government needs to do absolutely everything in their power so that the province isn’t in the same situation during future waves of the pandemic,” VanderBent said.
Prem echoed the same sentiment.
“Without home-care, hospitals will remain at overcapacity,” Prem said. “We need adequate investment in this service to continue offering the at-home care people need.”
In the government’s fall economic outlook, released in November, it pledged an additional $549 million over three years to home and community care to expand home-care services.