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Saturday, January 25, 2014

My thoughts on PSWs and nursing/retirement homes

Personal Support Workers in hospitals and especially in retirement homes are overworked and underpaid.  It is painful to think of the terrible fire in Quebec where there are 52 people; some in walkers and wheelchairs; some who cannot move fast enough to escape the fire. On staff  we are told there were only two people. Do we really think two people should be able to handle 52 patients in an emergency situation at night? Are the staffing odds any better here in Elliot Lake? We expect way too much of our PSW's. And yet we pay them a pittance for providing a much needed service. Don't we care about our mothers and our grandmothers; our fathers and our grandfathers?  Don't we want them to have the best possible care in their very old age?   Certainly we want them to have better care than they are receiving, don't we?  And don't we care about the people who take on the job of caring for them? I guess not. For shame!

I've never been a PSW but I can imagine that if I were I would not want to be one of only two people on staff at night ....... or imagine, horror of horrors, being the only staff person on duty at night. Elderly people do not always sleep soundly and also it is said that the older we get the less sleep we require. I don't picture the one or two PSW's having little to do throughout a night. Staffing in all retirement homes should be at a higher level overnight in my opinion. It is a shame that most elderly people dread the thought of having to go into a home in their very old age. We need to do better for our elders in this country. 

PSW's need to be more highly paid and respected for the training they have received and for the work they carry out. Privatized and indeed all retirement homes need to have more strict inspections and higher standards for their residents and for their staff.

Possibly things are relatively quiet between midnight and 5 a.m. but few PSW's work less than an eight hour shift ..... and when they are not interacting with patients I understand they are kept busy doing housework and laundry. I can't comment on conditions in U.S. but here in Canada I know that generally speaking the personal support workers are overworked and definitely underpaid for all that they are expected to do. From the standpoint of safety I believe that more than two people should be working the night shift and I believe it should NEVER  be one person on her/his own. What if that one person is ill or endangered in any way? Big change is needed in retirement homes; especially those that are privatized. And all nursing/retirement homes should have functioning sprinkler systems throughout. 

The fact that half the sprinklers in the Quebec retirement home were not working has resulted in an even greater tragedy.  

My heart and my thoughts are with these  residents and with their families.

And my thoughts and respect are with the personal support workers across this country who dedicate themselves to caring for our elders.  Their business is to offer support.  How sad that they receive such little support in return for all that they do for us.

While I have been discussing PSWs who work in retirement homes, I am reminded that we cannot forget the home care PSWs who go alone into homes often not knowing what they are walking into and, yes, they go into these homes alone. I understand they also do transfers alone and while their scope of practice expands their wage rates are capped.  They are left to struggle on insufficient pay to support themselves and their own families.  Why is it that PSWs are not deemed essential services like doctors or nurses? Where would we be without them and their dedication? There is no question that health care in Ontario and in all of Canada needs reform.

Change is needed and it is needed now.


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