An organization representing Ontario home care workers says the same factors leading to staff shortages throughout the workforce have left the already beleagured sector in crisis.
Home Care Ontario says providers before the COVID-19 pandemic met with care requests 95 percent of the time.
On December 31, 2021, the agency says, that number dropped to just 56 percent.
Home Care Ontario says about 4,000 nurses have left the home care sector since the onset of the pandemic.
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It says the situation is even worse given the high number of staff absences as workers are exposed to or infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
The organization says the shortage also puts additional pressure on Ontario’s hospital system, as the province’s latest figures show that 582 patients would be eligible to leave the hospital with publicly funded home care were the available resources.
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“We are overwhelmed with calls and we do not have the staff to respond,” said Sue VanderBent, CEO of Home Care Ontario. “There are no longer enough nurses and personal support workers in the system to provide people with the help they need at home.”
The organization said staff in the sector are paid less than their equivalents in other parts of the healthcare system, although they do similar work.
For example, personal support workers are paid at least $ 5 per hour more if they work in long-term care homes or hospitals, Home Care Ontario said.
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The agency, whose members employ 28,000 health care workers across Ontario, is urging the government to pour $ 460 million into the sector to “remove wage inequalities that have exacerbated an existing staffing crisis.”
“The government must now do everything in its power to ensure that the province is not in a similar situation during future waves of the pandemic,” VanderBent said. “It starts with prioritizing home care funds to stabilize this essential pillar of our health care system.”
In its fall economic outlook, released in early November, the provincial government has pledged an additional $ 549 million over three years to home and community care to expand home care services, providing an estimated 28,000 post-acute surgical patients and up to 21,000 patients with complex funding health conditions.
The government said it would help provide nursing and therapy visits and personal support services.
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