Health Workforce Retention Crisis To Continue: Federal Health Deal With Ontario Fails To Take Concrete Immediate Action To Support Struggling Frontline Workers Who Care For Patients And Seniors

Richmond Hill, Ontario — SEIU Healthcare, a union representing over 60,000 frontline healthcare workers in Ontario, welcomes the federal government’s injection of funds into Ontario’s failing health system but the deal fails to correct for the province’s ongoing refusal to take concrete immediate action to support struggling frontline workers who care for patients and seniors.

“We need to recruit more health workers and we welcome this lifeline investment from the federal government, but importantly, we need to retain the workers currently serving on the frontline of care who are going without real support from the province, which continues to take them to court to cap their wages and keep them low,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare. “Recruitment without retention is a recipe for ongoing health system failures where patients wait longer because work loads for staff grow. Efforts to add thousands of more personal support workers (PSWs) who are paid poverty wages in Ontario is frankly exploitation.”

Just last year, Ontario saw an exodus of nearly 10,000 nurses who didn’t renew their registration because, unlike British Columbia, safe patient-to-staff ratios don’t exist and dangerous working conditions are systemic across the province. As a result, one in every 10 patients admitted to a hospital in Ontario waits at least two days before they get a bed.

“Without concrete immediate action to support frontline workers who care for patients and seniors, the Canadian promise of universal public health is at risk in Ontario, and we will continue to see emergency rooms close and wait times will get longer,” added Stewart.

We call on Premier Ford’s government to stop their attacks on healthcare workers, including withdrawing their ongoing legal efforts to deny nursing home workers equal pay for equal work.

It’s long past time the federal government deliver on the specific promises they made to PSWs to raise wages to a minimum of $25 per hour and deliver the retirement security they need. “Seniors go without timely and dignified care because homecare PSWs simply can’t make ends meet. Our ability to deliver homecare means delivering for PSWs,” concluded Stewart. In this cost-of-living crisis, we reiterate our call made last summer when Sharleen Stewart and Bea Bruske, president of the Canadian Labour Congress, sent a joint letter to the Prime Minister and all premiers calling for federal action to raise wages for PSWs and all elder care workers across Canada.