Shining a Light on the Issues in LTC
/ Author: Ian DeWaard
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Shining a Light on the Issues in LTC

Now in its third week, CLAC’s healthcare hero pay campaign is picking up speed

By Ian DeWaard, Ontario Director

In my position, I have the honour of listening to firsthand, often heartbreaking accounts from the dedicated men and women on the front lines in the fight against COVID. Across the country, those that work in retail, education, and other sectors are diligently fighting the good fight on behalf of all Canadians.

As we have come to recognize, those in the healthcare sector, especially those providing hands-on support to our most vulnerable populations in long term care (LTC), are greatly affected by the lack of resources available to them. Add to that legislation passed in Ontario that is restricting their ability to take time off and earn a living wage, and you have a powder keg of dissatisfaction and fatigue in the making.

This was the catalyst for Make Healthcare Hero Pay Permanent, CLAC’s first digital advocacy campaign. Now in its third week, the initiative is gaining steam, as we announced in our recent news release.

So far, more than 1,700 letters have been sent by CLAC members and supporters across Ontario to local MPPs, the ministers of health and long-term care, and Premier Doug Ford.

The campaign, which attempts to bring focus to the staffing crisis, has three priorities:

  1. To urge the government to make permanent and meaningful wage adjustments for those in the healthcare sector

  2. To convince the government to revise emergency orders so that only homes in outbreak can suspend collective agreement privileges (like vacations and leaves of absence)

  3. To demand that the government eliminate the wage caps imposed by Bill 124 on some workers

To understand this campaign, a bit of context is helpful.

As of November 14, more than 100 LTC homes in the province are in outbreak, with staff infections making up more than 40 percent of the COVID-19 cases. Not only do staff face risk of personal harm, but also incredible physical, mental, and emotional strain from being in the workplace. The death count in Ontario's long term care facilities now exceeds 2,000 and is continuing to climb at a rapid pace.

Many staff are now approaching nine months without a meaningful break from work, and there’s no end in sight. Vacations and leaves have been cancelled and denied, and work schedules have been thrown into disarray.  

Much of this struggle is due to a crisis that existed long before COVID. Funding for this sector has been choked, frozen, or capped for more than 15 years, even while patient needs and numbers have soared.

The province is promising to bring relief by building more beds and increasing the minimum number of hours of care per day. These actions are welcome, and much overdue.  But these solutions are years away. And by adding by adding new beds and promising more hours of care, the staffing shortage worsens.

That is why the campaign is so important. Creating meaningful work from which front-line workers can earn a reasonable living will be the only way to attract and retain the army of staff that is needed. Crises pay is needed now, for all in these front-line sectors, but also on a sustained, predictable basis as we move forward.  

At present, PSWs in Ontario have been promised a temporary wage increase of $3 per hour. But this increase must be made permanent, and it needs to be for the entire spectrum of front-line homecare and long term care workers. This is the only way that the province will be able to quickly tend to the shortage and ensure that workers don’t flee the sector.

Creating a caring society, one that honours the now-aging generation that built Ontario, demands proper facilities, in proper supply, with the proper type and amount of care being provided. Workers who are well trained, well resourced, and energized to do the work will be essential. As we’ve seen, if we don’t tend to these challenges, the results will be disastrous—for Canadians from coast to coast.

Join us in our fight for the fair treatment of these heroes. If you haven’t already taken part, visit our campaign website to send a message to the Ontario government—it’s easy, and it will make a difference.

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