Skyrocketing Gas Prices Mean Durham’s Homecare Patients Are Being Left Behind
/ Author: Kevin Gates
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Skyrocketing Gas Prices Mean Durham’s Homecare Patients Are Being Left Behind

The most vulnerable members of our community are being left in the lurch, all thanks to the exponential rise in the cost of gas

By Kevin Gates, Representative

The most vulnerable members of our community are being left in the lurch, all thanks to the exponential rise in the cost of gas.

Thousands of people across the province, from the elderly to those battling illnesses, rely on in-home care every day. To ensure the health and safety of these citizens, thousands of personal support workers (PSWs)—workers who have entered the field due to their desire to help those in need—drive their own vehicles to and from these clients’ homes. With gas prices surpassing the $2 per litre mark, it is becoming increasingly difficult for these workers to fill their tanks and perform their duties.

These PSWs provide a valuable and essential service for their clients, their clients’ families, and the province at large. According to Home Care Ontario, 93 percent of Ontario seniors would prefer to stay at home with additional care support than move into long term care. It is also the affordable choice: in-home care is estimated to cost around $103 per day versus $182 for residence in a long term care facility.

The harsh reality is that seniors with chronic health issues may be forced into hospital wards or long term care homes because of the desperate shortage of homecare workers. Homecare PSWs are already the lowest-paid workers in the healthcare sector. Low pay coupled with mileage reimbursement rates that fail to cover the rising cost of gas is driving an exodus of qualified workers from this sector. Each day that a homecare worker must choose between filling their gas tank or affording food, rent, and basic necessities is another day closer to the time when the residents of Durham Region will find themselves without these essential healthcare services.  

CLAC represents more than 600 PSWs in the Durham Region who provide valuable in-home care to the area’s vulnerable citizens. Many have told us that they are considering leaving homecare—or healthcare altogether—because of this hurdle. In fact, 96 percent of personal support workers surveyed by CLAC said that they feel they are not being adequately reimbursed for their travel time and costs. Of those who said they are considering leaving their job, three out of four have said they may leave the homecare sector for good.

The prospect of being unable to receive timely and appropriate homecare is particularly galling when you consider how much for-profit homecare corporations like ParaMed, the company that employs the hundreds of PSWs mentioned earlier, are subsidized by taxpayers. For example, between 2020 and 2021 the federal government provided $108.6 million in grants to ParaMed through the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) program. These subsidies were quickly turned into profits for Extendicare (the parent company of ParaMed), with Q1 2022 earnings of $19.6 million on $305.7 million in quarterly revenue.

These hardworking healthcare heroes have already been through enough. The exorbitant price at the pumps is pouring gas onto a full-blown crisis that healthcare employers and government officials can no longer afford to ignore. Without their support, the homecare industry is sure to crumble under the weight of unreasonable fuel costs.

For more information on how CLAC is advocating for these workers, visit running-on-empty.ca.

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