Toronto, Ont. – Current trends in the health system are signalling an alarming future for clients’ care not just in hospitals but also in home and community care. Staff such as Personal Support Workers (PSWs), who are a backbone of the sector, are difficult to retain and recruit due to inadequate sector funding and legislative wage restraints, ultimately leading to fewer clients living independently at home.
Ahead of the Ontario government’s Throne Speech and new mandate next week, WoodGreen Community Services calls for further government investment into the most cost-effective care and client-desired sector, which is community care services.
Research has shown that a day spent in the hospital costs on average $730; a day in long-term care costs approximately $201; and, on average, a day in home or community care costs only $103. We also know from Campaign Research Inc. that 91 per cent of seniors would prefer to stay at home if they were on a waitlist for a long-term care facility. By investing in community care services, we can ensure clients, including seniors, can stay at home and in the community receiving care for as long as possible and in doing so support other levels of care.
“Expanding assisted living, community-based services and cluster care models for seniors can help alleviate pressure off hospitals by reducing the number of patients waiting in hospitals for care settings that are able to meet their needs. However, a prolonged long-term plan with appropriate sector funding is necessary to improve the overall scope of senior wellness and community care,” said Kevin Edmonson, Vice President of Community Care and Senior Wellness with WoodGreen Community Services.
WoodGreen offers a number of personal support and integrated care services to help keep clients, including seniors at home, and is the largest mental health service provider in East Toronto. Many of the organization’s provincially funded programs have surpassed their targets. Earlier this year, WoodGreen’s Crisis Outreach Support Service (COSS) surpassed its target of 1,550 clients served, reaching a record high of 2,012 clients. Last year, the target established for the Toronto Seniors Helpline was 18,000 calls. The helpline received nearly triple the target, with a total of 49,780 calls. It is clear that these services for seniors are in great demand, making them more difficult to sustain without appropriate funding for the sector.
Many community care service organizations have not received a cost-of-living increase in over a decade and compensation inequalities are an ongoing challenge since PSWs in home and community care earn less than PSWs in long-term care and hospitals. This is even with the additional $3 wage increase made earlier this year by the Ontario government. Home and community care providers’ ability to recruit workers remains stunted by policies such as Bill 124, which constrains annual wages and benefits to no more than one per cent.
Ontario’s proposed 2022 budget, which did not pass before the election, promised $100 million in additional funding over the next three years to expand community care programs such as adult day programs, meal services, transportation, assisted living services, and caregiver supports. This short-term funding would help enhance sustainability for community services but much more is needed.
WoodGreen strongly encourages and recommends the Ontario government focus on a strategy and human resources plan to retain home and community care staff, address pay equity, and invest additional funding in the sector for non-profit community care agencies, so they can pay their staff the wages they deserve. Investment in the sector is crucial, so organizations, like WoodGreen, can continue to expand and run programs and services that improve the physical, social and mental well-being of clients and ensure that they can live independently for as long as possible.
ABOUT WOODGREEN COMMUNITY SERVICES (woodgreen.org): WoodGreen is one of the largest social service agencies in Toronto, serving 40,000 people each year. We offer over 75 programs and services tackling the social determinants that affect the health and well-being of individuals in our community.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact: Jen Mayville, Marketing & Communications Manager; firstname.lastname@example.org; (437) 226-8091 (cell)