Why are community PSWs paid a lot less than PSWs who work in the hospital or long term care when they play such a vital role?
People who receive home care services love their personal support workers (PSWs).
And why wouldn’t they? PSWs provide the personal care seniors, people with disabilities and other vulnerable populations need to stay in their homes — like bathing, providing medication, meal prep and light housekeeping.
Community PSWs spend more time with home care clients than any other home care worker and become an important presence in their lives. They play a critical role in our healthcare system by significantly improving quality of life for their clients in a cost effective manner — most of the dollars spent on PSWs goes to care rather than on operating an institution.
So why are community PSWs paid a lot less than PSWs who work in the hospital or long term care?
Before the pandemic, home care PSWs were paid an average of $16 – $17 per hour. Those who worked in a hospital or long term care facility made $25 to $30 per hour. While the government did increase pay for community PSWs, it’s still falling short by an average of $5 per hour.
This doesn’t make sense. PSWs in the community need the same skill set and perform the same tasks as those who work in institutions. If anything, home care PSWs have a tougher job because they work alone and in more challenging conditions.
We hire a lot of PSWs and send them everywhere — sometimes almost all the way to Kingston — but we can’t guarantee them a 9-5 schedule because our clients’ care plans vary and people’s needs are always changing. It’s just the reality of the homecare sector. That’s why a lot of PSWs must work for more than one agency. Understandably, they’ll take whoever can give them the most hours and the best shifts.
The government could help solve this by giving care provider agencies more funds to compensate our PSWs’ for their travel time. We pay a flat rate between shifts, but there’s no incentive for us to pay more for their travel time because we won’t get paid for it. Every time our PSWs need to travel, providers like GEM lose money.
That’s why we want the Ontario government to invest more in this critical service, so care providers like ours don’t have PSWs leaving us to work for minimum wage jobs that give them steadier work.
The important role PSWs play in our health system has been neglected for long enough.