The retired PSWs were among a small group of people who took part in a protest at the Chatham constituency office of Chatham-Kent-Leamington MPP Rick Nicholls on Monday, the day the provincial legislature began sitting for the next session at Queen’s Park.
Chatham was among the several local chapters of the Ontario Health Coalition that held protests over the current state of long-term care homes in the province.
“This isn’t a new problem. We’ve been understaffed for 30 years,” said Brown, who retired after 42 years.
She recalled when there was a standard that required 1.5 hours of daily care for each long-term care resident before that was eliminated by the government of Premier Mike Harris.
Dorner, who retired after 36 years, said “working short” all of the time is often exhausting.
“When you work short, you’re still expected to do the same amount of work,” she said.
Dorner said personal support workers are frequently helping dietary and laundry staff do some of their work because workers in those areas aren’t provided enough hours. And that further detracts from resident care.
Despite long-term care residents often having greater and more complex needs, including many with dementia and associated behavioural issues, staff members have little time to provide adequate support, she said. Staff get about six minutes on average per resident to get them ready in the morning, said Dorner. That includes many needing to be toileted and dressed.
“It’s assembly line work,” said Brown. “It needs to be put back to the residents come first.”
She said most new staff don’t last long because “the work is so hard, emotionally and physically.”
Jeff McFadden, president of Unifor Local 127, which represents workers in local long-term care, said there is a crisis across the industry, “and I don’t see it ending anytime soon.”
He said PSWs are feeling the stress of not being able to have enough time off to recharge while working an already difficult job amid a pandemic.
The Ontario Health Coalition says promises by the Ontario government to make improvements have not been kept.
“The coalition is shocked that there has been no accountability for the horrors that we continue to see,” stated a media release. “Not one long-term care home has been fined.”
However, the government indicated in Monday’s throne speech it plans to address the issues in long-term care.
“The days when bad actors could get away with anything less than quality care for our most vulnerable will be over,” the speech stated.
The government said that it will introduce legislation this fall that will improve, “accountability, enforcement and transparency.”
According to government sources, they will also start enforcing the rules.
– With files from Brian Lilley, Sun Media
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