Medicine Hat News

Personal support workers to cost $38.5M in training: PBO


As the government moves to train 4,000 new personal support workers across the country, Parliament’s budget watchdog estimates it will cost $38.5 million over two years.

A costing note from the parliament­ary budget office Tuesday says the federal government proposes to fund a six-week accelerate­d online program and four-month internship.

Parts of the country have faced dire staffing shortages in long-term care homes, where COVID-19 outbreaks have strained resources and caused thousands of deaths.

Measures prohibitin­g care workers from working at multiple homes in an effort to slow the spread of the novel coronaviru­s have worsened the staffing crunch.

In recent weeks, outbreaks at dozens of homes have raised alarms after the first wave saw more than 80 per cent of COVID-19 deaths occur in long-term care facilities.

The Canadian Red Cross sent workers to five care homes in British Columbia last week, following similar efforts in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec and the military’s deployment to nursing homes in Quebec and Ontario last spring.

Miranda Ferrier, who heads the Canadian Support Workers Associatio­n, backs the new training regime’s intent but worries it amounts to a “Band-Aid solution.”

“The need for (personal support workers) across every province is immense ... but if we don’t supply them with the proper training and the proper message to go into longterm care facilities in order to assist and to help, we’re going to lose them just as fast as we made them,” she said.

Ferrier is calling for greater regulation and profession­al recognitio­n of the industry in order to cement higher wages, full-time hours, benefits and pensions, and thus boost staff retention and care quality.

“We can throw people into long-term care left, right and centre ... but are they going to stay? If we want to make longterm care viable, if we want to make it safe for those that are most vulnerable and if we want to make it a career of choice, then we have to be honest about the workload,” she said.

The budget office’s $38.5-million cost estimate is two-thirds higher than the amount announced in December by Employment Minister Carla Qualtrough, who pledged $23.2 million for Colleges and Institutes Canada to develop and implement the training program.

Its major expenses stem from tuition, intern wages and administra­tion.

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