Unions demand action from government
Several unions are demanding for an urgent and comprehensive strategy from the Ontario government to address what they describe as a worsening human health resources crisis in the province.
Union leaders from the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario, SEIU Healthcare and Unifor, along with a frontline healthcare worker, made this demand in a media conference last Tuesday.
“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,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare. “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.”
The unions criticized the $2 million investment the government made through the Recruitment and Retention Incentive Program to help recruit and retain skilled PSWs and nurses into retirement homes in the province.
They said the program ignores those working in hospital, long-term care (LTC) and homecare settings, and offers no respect or appreciation to those who have spent the past 18 months risking their lives on the frontline.
“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,” said Katha Fortier, assistant to national president and Unifor lead health care negotiator.
On top of that, the temporary $3 per hour enhancement for PSWs is set to expire today on August 23 – an incentive that excludes PSWs working in retirement homes and all others working in healthcare settings, including nurses, dietary, clerical, and housekeeping staff.
Staffing trouble has been one of the biggest problems in Ontario’s LTC system, based on a report released by the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO) in June 2020. That report compiled 35 reports about the troubles in the province’s long-term care system, and the recommendations that different groups have made since 1999.
The unions note that they have been raising issues of staffing problems in the healthcare sector for years, yet the Ford government has been making “reactionary decisions that won't solve healthcare's recruitment and retention issues.”
In July, Ontario said it is increasing funding for the Ontario Association of Residents’ Councils (OARC) and the Family Councils Ontario (FCO) by nearly 53 per cent this year. The government also announced it is providing financial support to help 65 Westervelt College students train for careers as PSWs.