Hon. Rod Phillips, Minister of Long-Term Care
Room 436 – Main Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A8
Dear Minister Phillips:
It is encouraging that upon your appointment as Ontario’s new Minister of Long-Term Care you took the needed and significant step of offering an apology to long-term care residents, their families, and front-line staff that acknowledged that successive provincial governments have failed them. We applaud your courage in this regard. We agree the apology was necessary to move forward to improve care quality for residents while dignifying care staff with better working conditions.
It is in this spirit that we are writing to request a meeting with you, as soon as possible. We are optimistic that you will agree that open dialogue with CUPE and our long-term care sector members will be a benefit to Ontarians as needed changes unfold in long-term care and a new Act is introduced by your government.
We underscore that with over 35,000 long-term care members employed in 65 public/municipal, 54 private non-profit, and 62 private for-profit homes across Ontario, CUPE has considerable reach in the sector. Our members are employed in diverse classifications including activity aides, cooks, dietary aides, health care aides/personal support workers, nurse aides, nurse practitioners, Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI) Coordinators, registered practical nurses, registered nurses, and housekeeping, laundry, and maintenance staff.
It will be no surprise to you that CUPE has focused on the challenging working conditions of front-line long-term care staff and the over-reliance on a part-time workforce. Issues that we believe have a direct and detrimental impact on resident care levels and quality of care.
The most measurable indicators of good quality care – such as staffing levels – are not regulated. This has been a long-standing concern for CUPE and its members working in the sector. Many of them have selflessly devoted time advocating for better quality resident care, higher staffing, and a legislated daily care standard.
There is equal concern that low funding of long-term care has resulted in staffing levels kept at an absolute minimum. The physical nature of the work, combined with the low wages and demand for PSWs and RPNs in other health facilities, has resulted in there being significant shortages of staff.
Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability of long-term care facilities to recruit and retain staff was strained. Today following a gruelling year and half of pandemic work, and thousands of residents’ deaths, many front-line staff becoming infected with the virus and thirteen of them tragically dying – retaining and attracting skilled health care staff to work in long-term is a major workforce concern.
We are optimistic that you will meet with us and engage in dialogue on the following key staffing issues:
- The low wages and benefits of gendered long-term care workforce.
- The rising acuity of the residents the staff are expected to care for and the increased workload that comes with it.
- Workforce stability – attracting and retaining skilled long-term care staff.
- Fast-tracking the implementation of the promised 4-hour care standard.
- Changes to the funding mechanism for long-term care to recognize the complex and rising levels of care needed by residents.
- Government funding/resources to deal with trauma among health care workers and residents and the introduction of legislation to provide presumptive WSIB coverage for front-line health care workers diagnosed with PTSD.
- Expanding bed capacity in non-profit and public long-term care and the phasing out of for-profit licences.
We look forward to hearing from your office and meeting with you in the near future.
Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer CUPE Ontario
Michael Hurley, President Ontario Council of Hospital Unions (OCHU/CUPE)