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Ford government making life easier for LTC operators

Posted: July 10, 2020

(July 8, 2020)

By: Keith Leslie, The Hamilton Spectator

COVID-19 devastated long-term-care homes in Ontario, but it also helped LTC operators get rid of some regulations, at least temporarily, that they’ve lobbied for years to have eliminated.

Last year, under the guise of “flexibility,” LTC homes asked to use less qualified staff to address a shortage of registered nurses and personal support workers, which they helped create.

The staffing shortage quickly became a crisis when COVID-19 hit, so the Ford government gave LTC homes what they’d been asking for, hopefully just for the duration of the pandemic.

The Ontario Long Term Care Association said homes shouldn’t be required to have at least one RN on duty 24-7, claiming a registered practical nurse could do the job, and also wanted to use untrained staff to do work done by college-trained PSWs.

The province approved both changes in the pandemic Emergency Act, allowing LTC homes to use any staff, or even volunteers, to do the “direct care and comfort” work of PSWs.

Premier Doug Ford this week denied cabinet had rejected two requests from Long Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton for extra funding for LTC staff. There was no money for more staff, but immediate regulation changes to allow LTC homes to use cheaper, untrained labour.

LTC homes call it a “human resources emergency,” but nowhere in their nine-page submission to the government’s red tape commission in 2019 do they admit that precarious employment is a key cause of the problem. They claim the “greatest challenge” to hiring staff is a “high administrative workload,” and a “punitive culture” created by regulations and inspections.

In reality, too many LTC staff are hired on a part-time, temporary or contract basis, without benefits, and work at two or three homes, or take agency work, to make ends meet.

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