Personal Support Worker Registry of Ontario

As mentioned in November 2017, a “PSW Registry” [1] is being redeveloped and re-introduced. The redevelopment is being led by the Michener Institute for Applied Health Sciences for implementation in phases over the next three years, culminating in a comprehensive, mandatory registry by 2019 [2]. Apparently, the PSWs hired by the SDCO will have to be registered.

Although there is relatively little information on the Registry’s website, the initial phase of the PSW Registry is intended to start with the following:

  • Verification of a PSW’s credentials and additional certification (NOTE: This process was grossly underfunded in the previous registry, leading to significant difficulty in verifying foreign credentials and Ontario equivalency, and thus a lack of credibility. Information on the Registry’s budget is scarce);
  • A registration process for qualified applicants;
  • A Code of Ethics (http://www.psw-on.ca/assets/documents/policies/code-of-ethics.pdf) (although a good start, a code of ethics is not the same or as enforceable as professional competency standards);
  • A transparent interim complaints process; and,
  • An employer portal to assist in the filling of vacancies.

Also according to the website, the Registry will be open to all PSWs of Ontario; however, registration will be done in phases. The Registry will start with a small “sample of graduates” from an Ontario PSW Certificate Programme, who graduated in June 2016 or later, to allow the Registry to test and gain valuable feedback for the eventual mandatory comprehensive Registry. The Registry will gradually invite the remaining PSW population to enrol through expanded eligibility processes.


[1] A prior registry was closed in 2016 following complaints.

[2] Until then, current information available suggests that registration is voluntary.

This Hour has 45 minutes and PSW Pay Cuts

Bob Hepburn’s commentary (Toronto Star. Aug. 4, 2016) [1] laments that raising the minimum wage for Personal Service Workers (PSWs) in the home care sector has resulted in reduced hours of service for clients and lower take-home pay for workers.  PSWs, who are paid on a piece-work or hourly basis, are now allowed to spend only 45 minutes per hour with clients, regardless of the client’s needs or the amount of work to be done, and are being assigned fewer clients.  The result for the PSW is less take-home pay, fewer or no employment benefits (e.g., sick, vacation or holiday pay), continued precarious working situations and increasingly rushed and frustrated clients.  The result for the client is less service and, for those with complex health problems, an increased likelihood of requiring more expensive hospital services.

Care Watch wonders why anyone is surprised.

The majority of home and community care workers are employed through private agencies; they are not “government” workers. These agencies must cover their overhead costs, and, in the case of for-profit agencies, their profit margins, through the budgets contracted via the CCACs. The obvious response was to cut back on hours of work and service provision.   The CCACs’ defense that services are based on need is disingenuous and not credible.

Back in June 2015, the Globe & Mail [2] reported that the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care responded to a litany of complaints by providing guidelines to the LHINs intended to address inequities in the implementation of the phased wage increase and to deny any new business to agencies that would not agree to accept the raise. It appears that they failed to also address the usual strategy of reducing working hours and services as a response to increased costs that cannot be passed on to the client.

At that time, Minister Hoskins acknowledged that problems arose because his department did not know enough about PSWs in the home care sector. A year later, they should have learned a lot more and be in a better position to mitigate the problems that are arising.

Via the 2015 Patients First Roadmap [3], the province committed over a three-year period to raising investment in home and community care by $750 million (or $250M per year); increasing nursing visits a patient can receive at home above current maximums to avoid hospital or long-term care home admission; develop measures to create more permanent and less casual employment for PSWs (stabilize the work force); and address the challenges affecting recruitment and retention of PSWs.   The 45 minute hour and continued poor working conditions for PSWs are not meeting this commitment. Ontarians, and PSWs, deserve better.

 

[1] Toronto Star, Aug. 4, 2016. https://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2016/08/04/how-a-pay-raise-turned-into-a-nasty-pay-cut-hepburn.html

[2] Globe & Mail, June 11, 2015. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/ontario-tightens-wage-increase-rules-for-personal-support-workers/article24921222/

[3]  Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.  A Roadmap to Strengthening Home and Community Care.  http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/programs/ccac/roadmap.pdf