Toronto Star

The time has come to pay PSWs what they are worth


Re Do we need to rethink home-care after the pandemic? April 13

John Lorinc’s article on home-care workers barely touches on the fact that home-care workers not only travel between multiple sites (visiting multiple clients a day in their homes and apartments), but a good number of VHA Home HealthCare’s or CarePartne­rs’ personal support workers (PSWs) are also part-timers who work second and third jobs in local hospitals, retirement homes and long-term-care facilities.

For my disabled family member, this means we would normally see up to 12 different PSWs to cover two visits per day during the course of a week. On March 13, we suspended service, as the risk of having one of these PSWs bring COVID-19 into our home was much too high for our liking. We are fortunate to have all the equipment needed to provide the care required and we’ve been managing surprising­ly well, with much less stress and anxiety than if we had the usual roster of 12 PSWs visiting every week during these unpreceden­ted times.

The time is now, not after the pandemic, to ensure home-care workers are offered full-time employment and are paid an hourly wage that allows them to work for only one employer, and not have to cobble together a living wage by working two or three jobs.

The time is now, not after the pandemic, to gather the needed data to assess whether Ontario’s home-care model represents “a simmering source of infection risk” to the elderly and disabled clients to which they provide service.

Patsy Javor, Mississaug­a

Over the past decade, we have seen a significan­t shift in the duties of personal support workers, from assistance with bathing, toileting and dressing in community home care to now include tasks such as catheter care, ostomy care (change flanges), G-Tube feeding (using a pump), assistance with bowel routines, exercises and applying medicated ointments and eye drops.

Task shifting of more medically related tasks to PSWs has become an option to increase productive efficiency of the delivery of home- and social-care services. However, there are several challenges that need to be addressed. Variabilit­y in training continues to be a significan­t challenge, whereby the scope of practice, competenci­es and work standards are unclear, inconsiste­nt and not related to educationa­l programs. While task shifting has expanded PSWs’ scope of practice, their compensati­on and benefits, should there be any, do not correspond, nor do employer practices, including supervisio­n, support, training, working conditions and benefits.

These challenges need to be spearheade­d by our government through policy direction and funding.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it is that our reliance on these workers is paramount and we can no longer accept as a society that this occupation is allowed to be treated with less respect, value and recognitio­n than that of our nurses and physicians.

Dr. Catherine Brookman, gerontolog­ist, Toronto

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