May 19 marks Personal Support Worker (PSW) Day, an annual day of recognition for the tens of thousands of PSWs providing daily living assistance to our province’s most vulnerable. They give everything of themselves that they can, despite poor working conditions that have been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
PSWs are the heart and soul of our long-term care system – they provide care with compassion and allow the elderly and developmentally/mentally-disabled to live with dignity – yet they have been enduring extreme levels of burnout for years. In this primarily female-dominated field, many PSWs leave their jobs due to exhaustion, difficulties finding childcare to cover the long hours they work, and poor pay. PSW shortages are an issue that policy-makers and politicians have put on the backburner for years, but it can no longer be overlooked.
The COVID-19 crisis has been a wake-up call to the issues surrounding staff shortages and underfunding that PSWs have faced for decades. In the midst of this pandemic and beyond, addressing the gaps in our long-term care system must be a priority.
Our long-term care facilities need to be adequately staffed so that PSWs aren’t forced to work at multiple facilities in order to fulfil the demand for care and to make ends meet financially. There must be incentives for people to join the PSW field, to fix the PSW shortage in our care facilities and increase the access to care for residents. Further, PSWs need to be consistently provided with personal protective equipment (PPE) to perform their jobs in a safe, effective manner.
PSWs are vital to our healthcare system. They deserve to be appreciated; they deserve to be supported; and they deserve to be adequately compensated for the care that they provide.
Thank you to our PSWs for your compassion, bravery, and resilience. OPSEU will always stand with you and fight for you.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida, OPSEU First-Vice President/Treasurer