People Over Paperwork

Others, Health

Contributed by: Cardus

Time, Dignity, and Other Labour Market Challenges for Ontario’s Long-Term Care Workers

Written by Brian Dijkema and Johanna Wolfert

Executive Summary

Workers in Ontario’s long-term care (LTC) homes provide care and support for thousands of seniors every day—but there are not nearly enough of them. Though LTC residents have increasingly acute care needs, there is a worsening shortage of workers who provide care. At the same time, the demand for LTC beds far exceeds supply, and the growing backlog is harming the entire health-care system. 

  • Compared to ten years ago, LTC residents today are older, have poorer health, and need more support—yet the wages of the workers who care for them have declined. 
  • Low attraction and retention of LTC workers have created widespread staff shortages, increasing pressure on the remaining workers and putting both residents and staff at risk.
  • Ontario’s financial problems mean it is unfeasible for the provincial government to try making the LTC sector more attractive for new and existing workers by raising wages alone; it must also improve workers’ job satisfaction (which is associated with a variety of positive outcomes, including intention to stay, performance, and productivity).
  • LTC workers report lower job satisfaction when they feel they are unable to provide quality care to residents, something that has become more challenging as limited staff are stretched thin trying to meet the demands of rising resident acuity. They are particularly frustrated by excessive documentation requirements: overregulation has forced workers to spend time filling out redundant paperwork instead of caring for residents face to face.
  • A time-use study conducted by the union CLAC revealed that in an eight-hour shift at a LTC home, the average personal support worker spent nine minutes on documentation per resident—taking time away from hands-on care. 

The systemic, multifaceted problems facing workers in Ontario’s LTC sector defy easy solutions, but the industry’s primary stakeholders—government, labour, and employers—can still bring significant improvement to the front lines. We urge government to bring these stakeholders together in order to correctly identify the problem LTC workers face, collaboratively develop solutions to the problem, support the implementation of solutions, and facilitate sustained engagement with the province’s LTC challenges. It’s time to build a better LTC sector for all Ontarians. 

Workers in Ontario’s long-term care homes provide care and support for thousands of seniors every day. 

But there are not nearly enough of them.

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Article originally posted on: https://www.cardus.ca/research/work-economics/reports/people-over-paperwork/