Saturday, April 14, 2012

PSWs need regulation, not just registration

You have to watch the source for healthcare articles. The differences between US care and Canadian healthcare are huge. Even the term to describe a personal support worker (PSW- formerly 'healthcare aide' ) changes depending upon the agency, or the for-profit institution.
Those providing intimate care for our loved ones vary in their integrity, knowledge, training and skills from province-to-province, as well as across the border.

This US-based article, for example:

As Helping Hands for Elders, Home Care Workers Push for Respect

As we’ve reported previously, a longstanding loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act excludes home care or “companionship” workers from minimum wage and time-and-a-half overtime regulations. Nationwide, about 2.5 million home care and personal assistance aides–projected to grow to about 3.8 million by 2020–work around the clock to help their clients handle the basics of life, while often themselves scraping by on poverty wages.

In Ontario, PSWs are to be registered. This process is underway by PSNO. We're not sure why PSNO was awarded this contract, but they have been doing so. Another group, OPSWA, has been doing the same work in Ontario: holding in-service training, assisting members and providing group health and home insurance.

Unfortunately, they do not appear to be checking credentials, and some who may be registered are not necessarily holding the certification they profess to hold. Courses are offered in many places, but their quality and standards vary.

PSW Certificates are issued by the training institution. The province does not recognize a PSW Diploma, as the training program is too short to meet a diploma requirement.

In July 2010, the government of Ontario enacted the Long Term Care Homes Act.  A regulation to this act has changed the criteria under which a person working in a long term care home may be considered a Personal Support Worker.  This section comes into force on July 1 2011 and is reprinted here.

 PSWs are not, however, regulated in Canada or the US. Education and upgrading varies by institution and transfer payment agency (e.g., Red Cross, vs. CCAC contracted for-profits like Bayshore Home Health, which made $400 million 2010.)
In addition, many Ontario workers are in unions and negotiate collective agreements. It depends upon the agency in question, whether there is a collective agreement. This means a wide range in quality nonetheless.

In the news: Wed., Mar 21, 2012 

Caregivers to seniors preparing for picket line

Some of the workers say they feel caught between St. Joseph’s Home Care and the Service Employees International Union, which are battling over lowering wages for new staff by up to 15 per cent.
They’re worried about their patients at First Place Hamilton, Gwen Lee Supportive Housing, 226 Rebecca Street, Wellington Terrace in Burlington, St. Joseph’s Hospital and in the community if they go on strike or are locked out at midnight on March 28. Some have been caring for the same seniors for more than 12 years.
It’s difficult to determine an average salary for personal support workers in Ontario, who are unregulated and have about 500 hours of training. The Canadian Union of Public Employees estimated the average hourly wage of PSWs in Canada to be $12.71 in 2003. Personal Support Worker Canada estimates the average starting wage to be $14.53 and Internet company PayScale pegs it at $11.90 to $19.77.

The pay dispute

Hourly wage: Starts at $16.07 and reaches $17.99 over nine years
Proposed change for new workers: Start at $13.96 and rise to $15.31 over five years.


  • Personal support worker day is May 19th and recognizes the contributions of personal support workers to our health care system.
  • There are an estimated 90,000 personal support workers in Ontario with about 57,000 providing care in long-term care homes and 26,000 in home care through community health agencies. About 7,000 personal support workers provide care in hospitals.
  • The work of personal support workers ranges from assisted daily living tasks (such as personal hygiene, transferring clients between bed and chair, taking medication and doing light housework) to delegated health procedures (such as changing dressings, tube feedings and oxygen therapy).
  • To date, stakeholders have provided valuable input into this registry. Consultations with PSWs, their representatives and other stakeholders will begin in the summer.
  • The British Columbia government created a registry for first care aides and community health workers in January 2010.

PSNO is conscious of the decision made by HPRAC (Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council, which is based on appointees) not to regulate PSWs and as such we want to work with the government to find solutions that will support the advancement of the profession and provide accountability through certification and registration, which will be a more cost effective solution for all parties involved, including PSWs. They are currently working on a discussion paper that will present a solution in the very near future, so stay tuned.

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