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Lindsay business owner works to address inequities for PSWs

Posted: August 1, 2020

(July 31, 2020)

By: Catherine Whitnall, Kawartha Lakes This Week

Graham Bashford assisting government home-care company recruit caregivers and develop best practices

Castle Keep Retirement Inc. owner Graham Bashford has been assisting a government home-care company with recruiting caregivers and developing best practices as his way of helping address inequities impacting personal support workers which have been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. – Torstar file photo

A decade ago, Graham Bashford launched Castle Keep Retirement Inc. hoping to fill a much-needed gap for seniors home care in Kawartha Lakes.

The business was doing well until the provincial state of emergency was called March 17 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Roughly 40 per cent of Bashford’s workload ceased as long-term-care homes went into lockdown and clients cancelled services; some to maintain isolation for safety, while others assumed the duties while off work.

Bashford closed his doors April 20.

“It was a difficult choice,” said Bashford, citing an ethical and financial challenge to balance safety and staff income. “At one point, it was becoming a struggle to ensure personal protective equipment (PPE) was available for everyone.”

As the health-care industry reeled in the wake of the pandemic, Bashford looked for ways to address staff shortages and inequities for workers.

“I thought, by now, PSWs would have been recognized for the health-care heroes they are and their salaries would have reflected that,” said Bashford, pointing out the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is actually more than some PSWs’ regular income.

Bashford has been assisting a government home-care company with recruiting caregivers and developing best practices. He is excited about the Central East Local Health Integration Network’s (CE LHIN) recently approved Home Support Worker program. The six-week course — a PSW course takes nine months — is geared toward non-medical daily living training; running errands, providing transportation and housekeeping.

Bashford said between 60 and 80 per cent of the services provided by PSWs in the home could be addressed by HSWs.

“This would help ensure PSWs don’t burn out and leave the industry completely,” said Bashford.

It’s a concern under normal conditions, never mind a pandemic.

A recent Ontario Health Coalition survey showed that 95 per cent of the more than 150 long-term care staff from across the province who participated report that their long-term care homes are short staffed.

Participants also reported insufficient time to properly feed and hydrate residents, reposition them to avoid bedsores and toilet them, never mind provide activities, entertainment and rehabilitation.

The Coalition has pressed the province to improve wages, provide full-time work, pay for staff training and engage in recruitment to get staffing levels up to safe levels, yet nothing has been done.

“I think the whole culture needs to shift … The fabric of health care is not changing as rapidly as it needs to and it desperately needs to in order to meet future needs.”

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