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Peter Bergmanis, chairperson of the London Health Coalition

The Ontario Health Coalition says a recent report by its team is showing a large shortage of personal support workers (PSW) in long term-care homes.

Shoshannah Bourgeois has been a PSW for seven years.

“I wanted to keep people at home as long as I possibly could to give them the dignity and quality of life so they can finish out the rest of their life with the quality they deserve.”

But she says in those seven years she’s seen a growing crisis when it comes to the lack of PSWs in long-term care homes, and says it’s impacting lives.

“Residents can be sitting in the same clothes they had the day before and sleeping in them, sometimes going hours without a change of a brief while sitting in urine and feces, causing breakdown of skin and infections.”

Bourgeois shared her experiences as a PSW at a media event held by the Ontario Health Coalition, which is sounding the alarm bells on what it’s calling a PSW shortage and crisis.

“We are going to see residents continue to suffer and residents continue to die,” says Andy Savela, Unifor’s national director for health care.

The report, released by the Ontario Health Coalition, paints a concerning picture.

It states that many long-term care facilities across the province are operating with a shortage of one to two PSWs on all shifts, and in some cases homes are short up to 10 PSWs per day.

“We are running short and there aren’t enough staff on any given shift for most of the time during the year,” says Peter Bergmanis from the Ontario Health Coalition. “This is all part of the condition of care these residents who deserve dignity are finding themselves in.”

Bergmanis says as the PSW shortage increases, so does the increase in unsafe environments for both patients and staff

Minister of Long Term Care Merrilee Fullerton says the government is aware of the shortage and is taking steps to deal with the situation.

“So we are looking at ways to address the cost of training and making training more meaningful and the positions of personal support workers more adaptable so we don’t lose them from the health care sector.”

However, the health coalition says low wages and unsafe work environments are to blame and are calling on the government to boost funding as soon as possible, before the situation gets worse.

“It’s a factory out there and these aren’t automobiles that we are putting out, these are human beings that deserve to be respected and have a quality of life,” says Bourgeois.