In the realm of healthcare, personal support workers (PSWs) hold a position of paramount importance. They are tasked with the selfless responsibility of caring for the elderly, chronically ill, and persons with disabilities. PSWs are the unsung heroes of the healthcare community and that was made more evident during the recent pandemic.Currently there are over 100,000 PSWs working in the healthcare industry but the demand is still high with the province requiring 34,400 more by 2026.
Here are 6 reasons why Ontario needs more Personal Support Workers than before:
1. Ageing Population
Ontario, like the rest of Canada, is experiencing a significant demographic shift with the proportion of seniors in the population growing faster than any other age group. As per Statistics Canada, by 2031, the number of people aged over 65 in Ontario is expected to reach 4.1 million, up from 2.3 million in 2016. This 78% increase signals a surge in the demand for healthcare services, particularly those offered by PSWs.
2. Rising Chronic Health Conditions
It's not just the ageing population contributing to this demand, but also health conditions like heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and arthritis, impacting individuals across various age groups. The Public Health Agency of Canada states that about 5.3 million Canadians, or one in every five individuals aged 20 years and older, live with at least one of these chronic diseases.
These health conditions often necessitate long-term, personalised care. From managing debilitating side effects of cancer treatments to assisting with daily activities impacted by severe arthritis or diabetes-related complications, PSWs play a vital role. They provide patient-focused care tailored to their unique needs, making them an invaluable part of the healthcare landscape in response to these rising chronic conditions.
3. Increasing Home Care Needs
As Ontario's population grows older, the paradigm of healthcare is shifting towards a preference for in-home care. Rather than relying on institutional care facilities like nursing homes or hospitals, more seniors and people with disabilities are choosing to age in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes. This shift is a response to the desire for more personalised care, maintaining independence, and the wish to stay connected with the community and family.
The role of personal support workers (PSWs) is pivotal in this shift. As PSWs provide crucial support services ranging from personal care, such as bathing and dressing, to housekeeping tasks, meal preparation, and medication management, they enable those they care for to live as independently as possible.
Moreover, PSWs often provide companionship, reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation that some individuals may experience. They often form deep, meaningful relationships with those they serve, enhancing the mental and emotional wellbeing of their clients.
4. PSW Workforce Shortages
The increased demand for Personal Support Workers (PSWs) in Ontario intersects with a pressing issue: a significant shortage of these healthcare professionals in the province. This shortfall, unfortunately, is not a new concern, but it has been amplified in recent times, particularly against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association, the province is facing a daunting shortfall. Several factors contribute to this shortage, including workforce attrition due to factors such as low wages, demanding working conditions, and the inherent risks associated with the profession, especially highlighted during the pandemic.
With fewer PSWs available to provide care, there's an increased strain on existing healthcare workers and a potential compromise in the quality of care received by seniors, persons with disabilities, and those with chronic illnesses. The situation also impacts home care services and long-term care facilities, which heavily rely on the services of PSWs.
5. Need for Improved Healthcare in Long-term Care Facilities
Ontario’s long-term care facilities have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, shedding light on the vital role of PSWs in these establishments. Currently, Ontario only has 30 beds per 1,000 seniors over 65 years. They cannot take more elderly people because of a lack of workforce. To ensure the health and safety of residents, it's crucial to have enough PSWs to provide the necessary care.
6. Tackling the Shortage – A Call to Action
To address the shortage, the Ontario government has launched initiatives to attract more people to the profession and retain existing PSWs. The Canadian government announced in Budget 2023 that they will allocate $1.7 billion over the next 5 years to support healthcare professionals including PSWs.
These measures include a temporary wage increase for PSWs, investments in PSW training programs, and better working conditions. However, it’s crucial to continue building on these initiatives to meet the growing demand.
PSWs provide indispensable services to those who need it most, and it's vital to ensure there's enough of them to shoulder Ontario's escalating healthcare needs.
If you’re considering a career as a Personal Support Worker, you should start by enrolling in a PSW diploma program. Jyot’s Academy offers an extensive 28-week PSW program that is accredited by NACC. Get in touch with us for more details.