Ontario nursing homes get $270M to hire 4,000 workers

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Nursing homes across Ontario will share an additional $270 million to hire 4,000 more nurses and personal support workers by March as Premier Doug Ford’s government works toward four hours of daily care per resident in 2025.

The total of $4.9 billion in additional annual funding announced Tuesday for this fiscal year and the next three was hailed as a historic investment, but amid a shortage of health care workers after grueling months dealing with COVID-19, 19 Keeping it won’t be easy. , the industry warned.

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“We’re just losing so many employees, and it’s not just long-term care, but hospitals too,” said Donna Duncan, chief executive of the Ontario Long-Term Care Association, which accounts for nearly 70 percent of the province’s 626 nursing homes. represent. .

“If there are people who won’t come to work in long-term care, money will be an important issue,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s full-time or part-time, if people don’t feel supported and don’t feel valued and don’t feel secure, honestly, then they won’t commit.”

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Nearly 4,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19, more than 7,300 workers have been infected and 13 have died, mostly in the first two waves before vaccinations became widely available.

Long-term care minister Rod Phillips said the additional funding – rising to an additional $1.82 billion annually four years from now – would raise the level of care for each resident from the current average of two hours and 45 minutes of daily care.

He promised to ensure a four-hour standard in legislation to be introduced this fall, and called on the industry to rely less on part-time workers and more on full-time employees to attract a more stable workforce. . At least 27,000 new employees are needed to meet the four-hour target.

“Obviously, we need more nurses. That’s where they feel appreciated, so I think that’s an area that home operators need to focus on,” Phillips said.

The extra money this year is enough to hire six more registered nurses, 12 more registered practical nurses and 25 personal support staff for a typical 160-bed nursing home, which improves care by about three hours a day .

“It’s putting dollars exactly where they need to be — increasing front-line staff to improve care for residents,” said Lisa Levine of AdventEdge, which represents nonprofit, municipal and charitable nursing homes. .

Critics said fixing the staff shortage in nursing homes is an uphill climb, and urged the government to reach four-hour care as soon as possible, which would reduce the workload for staff and better living conditions for residents. Be.

“The workforce crisis is caused by poor working conditions and low wages, and will continue until they improve,” Green Leader Mike Schreiner said. “Hiring more employees without addressing the dire working conditions will create a revolving door that will benefit no one.”

Phillips said there is no quick solution to the long-standing problem because nurses and personal support staff cannot be trained and recruited overnight as the government builds more nursing homes and renovates others to modern standards. Supported by government subsidies for tuition, thousands of PSWs are currently training at community colleges and are expected to enter the workforce later this fall.

The minister suggested that permanent pay hikes are coming for nursing home PSWs, but did not give details.

Phillips said of PSW, “We’re going to make sure that the wages are commensurate with the great work that these individuals do, which Ford has helped to dress, bathe, toilet, and feed nursing home residents.” To “hero” is repeatedly called.

New Democrat leader Andrea Horvath said she would give PSW a permanent $5 hourly wage increase if she is elected prime minister next June.

“During this pandemic, long-term care workers have risked their lives and worked tirelessly hours to care for our most vulnerable seniors. Employees are leaving the sector in large numbers complaining of burnout, poor pay and unsafe working conditions. “

The NDP and others are pressing the government to increase nursing home funding to ensure that more PSWs and nurses can find full-time positions with benefits so they don’t have to juggle full-time hours by working multiple homes .

“We are losing workers from the sector faster than we can train and recruit them and we will not be able to reach our goal of implementing a four-hour care standard without a robust strategy that makes long-term care a focused on creating the sector where people want to work,” said Candace Renick of the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter who covers Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @RobFerguson1
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