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Letter: PSW shortage an issue government can't afford to ignore

This precious human resource needs to shown respect that is due
Reader Nancy Johnson writes that local long-term care (LTC) facilities are challenged to attract and retain PSWs. The work is hard, burn-out is high. (File)

The local plight of personal support workers (PSWs) is a solvable crisis the government cannot afford to ignore. For many years, Sudbury has been the bellwether of health-care system problems that are sure to sweep across the province.

Hallway nursing became news in southern Ontario, long after we had locally acquiesced to it as an unavoidable, recurring curse.

And southern Ontario news outlets only started to profile the inhumane practice of separating couples by placing them in different long term care facilities, years after Sudburians began enduring this injustice. 

Local long-term care (LTC) facilities are challenged to attract and retain PSWs. The work is hard, burn-out is high.

We understand there are more than 90 vacancies in Sudbury’s LTC homes, in addition to the Local Health Integration Network's (LHIN) struggle to get enough PSWs to provide home care. Only approximately 50 PSWs will graduate from local schools this spring, and not all will stay in Sudbury.

With such a short supply of this invaluable resource, won’t any “solution” need to be system-wide? Won’t attracting PSWs to community care inevitably draw some from LTC, which is also in crisis? 

Local officials are thankfully thinking outside the box and testing novel ideas. But, in these circumstances, if a new idea is only tried in community care, or only in one home, might other homes be detrimentally impacted? Instead of dividing us up, couldn't the Sudbury health system, as a whole, pilot novel approaches that can light the way for Ontario health care?

Sudbury once again has the misfortune of leading the province in discovering what can go wrong in our health care system. We have an opportunity now to come together as a community, to build a local, system-wide solution that can lead the province forward. 

A PSW is likely the first person our loved one in LTC wakes to, and the last person they see at the end of the day. In between, they handle the intimate private details of our loved one’s care, and are most often there to offer tenderness and compassion.

We need to demonstrate respect and nurture these precious human resources for all our sakes. We need to elect local representatives who can demonstrate how they plan to pull all the system parts together to do this as a community, and lead the province forward.

Nancy Johnson
Co-chair,  Grand Family Council City of Greater Sudbury