TORONTO – As the COVID-19 death toll mounts, the Ontario government must immediately spend at least $58 million more a month on staffing to help save the lives of seniors in long-term care homes, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) says.
“Premier Doug Ford’s order that certain frontline workers will no longer be able to work in more than one long-term care facility is a necessary move, but it is not enough to ensure safe staffing levels,” said Sheila Block, senior economist in the CCPA Ontario office. “For this strategy to work, we need to follow the lead of British Columbia, and that means all workers – employees or temp agency workers – must be guaranteed full-time hours at union wages, effective immediately.
“We estimate that will mean $58 million a month in additional wages for underpaid personal support workers (PSWs). For a province the size of Ontario, it’s a small price to pay to save lives.”
COVID-19 is exposing longstanding staffing problems in the long-term care sector, where recent Ontario research has linked shortages of personal support workers (PSWs) to low wages and poor working conditions, Block said.
“The policy failures in our long-term care system are well known and well documented,” she said. “For-profit delivery and provincial underfunding have proven to be a toxic mix – both lead to cost-cutting on the front lines of care.
“The short-term solution to the care crisis is also the long-term solution – when you invest in quality jobs, you get quality care. The need has never been greater.”
Standardizing wages at full-time union rates would ensure that no long-term care facilities lose staff to higher-paid facilities, and it would also help to ensure adequate staffing at a time when COVID-19 is infecting staff as well as patients, Block said.
“The premier has said repeatedly that he will ‘spare no expense’ to save lives, and says that long-term care staff ‘deserve every penny – 10 times more than that as well.’
“We are at a critical moment where we can save lives, or save money,” she said. “It is not hard to guess which option our seniors and their families would choose.”
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For more information, please contact Sheila Block, [email protected] or 416-985-8041.