Sudbury MPP Jamie West held a virtual townhall with personal support workers (PSWs) on March 18.
During the meeting, West called on the provincial government to recognize the work and sacrifice of PSWs during the pandemic with a permanent pay increase.
“Tonight we heard from PSWs who are being run off their feet doing incredibly challenging work that takes a toll on their mental, emotional and physical wellbeing,” West said. “They play an essential role in caring for our loved ones and maintaining public health.”
“Unfortunately, too many PSWs are forced to leave this important field because they simply can’t afford to make ends meet on PSW wages. It’s time to permanently increase their pay so they don’t have to worry about putting food on the table.”
During the townhall, West was joined by Christyna Cox, a PSW who works in a long-term care home, and Roma Smith, co-chair of the Ontario North Family Council Network.
“They are angels in hell,” Smith said. “They deserve better. We need to provide incentives to train and hire PSWs in order to recruit more of them and retain them.”
“We are working for the betterment of the residents, and the majority of us are still here because we want to be,” Cox said. “We are the hands of few, trying to meet the needs of many. We need to start thinking of our own parents/grandparents and what they would be enduring in a LTC home. Change is a must and it needs to happen now.”
Darla Fiset, a home care PSW, was also scheduled to join the townhall, however, she was called into work.
“Not everyone can be a PSW. It has to come from the heart,” Fiset said. “Being a PSW is hard – and it’s becoming more difficult. We’re always working overtime. We’re always working short-handed. Not because there aren't enough qualified PSWs. There isn’t enough PSWs left because of working conditions.
The New Democrats have been calling on the Ford government to support a permanent pay increase for PSWs, full-time work for PSWs in home care, and to achieve four hours of daily hands-on care for every long-term care resident by hiring 10,000 full-time PSWs in long-term care, and providing paid training.
Andrea Horwath and the NDP have a plan to transition long-term care to a public and non-profit system for seniors care where every dollar goes directly to resident care — not to corporate profits
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shed a bright light on our broken long-term care system,” West said. “Fifteen years of privatization and cuts under the Liberal government created a crisis of care in this province. Instead of helping, Doug Ford made it worse with even more cuts before the pandemic.
“Our health care heroes take care of us when we are sick. The people of Ontario rely on them to keep us safe. But what happens when they burnout? What happens when these workers are not taken care of? We all lose.
“Temporary pay that only came into effect eight months after the first wave of COVID-19 is not the answer. Personal support workers risk their safety and wellbeing to care for our loved ones every day; they are consistently underpaid and overworked; and they deserve better from this government.È