Recruitment of workers for CHSLDs undermines home care, says PSW lobby group

Quebec forgetting home-based support workers, who are still earning $23,000 a year

More than two months after the COVID-19 pandemic started, an organization representing the interests of home-based personal support workers says the PSWs are being taken for granted by the Quebec government, leaving elderly and handicapped home-bound patients helpless, they claim.

According the réseau de coopération des entreprises d’économie sociale en aide à domicile EÉSAD, home services provided by the member PSWs are currently on “life support” for several reasons. The federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is motivating home-based PSWs to stay off the job because it pays more, the group says.

Workers drawn away

As well, they say the provincial government’s new salary increases (up to $49,000 annually) to personal assistants working at CHSLDs is also drawing away home-based PSWs (who are typically paid around $23,000 annually). As well, the CHSLD personal assistants will be receiving new benefits as government workers, which their EÉSAD counterparts will not be entitled to.

“All these measures put into place are helping to decimate, from week to week, the EÉSAD network which is trying to serve elderly or vulnerable persons who have chosen to live in their own homes,” said Josée Massicotte, a spokesperson for the at-home PSWs.

Since the start of the pandemic, according to Massicotte, the PSW work force has dwindled from 550 PSWs to only 83 who are still working. The association is suggesting that home-based PSW’s salaries should be greatly increased, the work of the PSWs should be given more professional recognition, and the financial stability of the EÉSAD network should be increased.

Their clients are suffering

Massiccotte provided several examples of EÉSAD clients and what they are going through now.

Jonathan is severely handicapped and quadriplegic. As such, he can’t do his own housekeeping nor can he prepare his own food. Before the COVID-19 pandemic started, a PSW went into his home once a week to clean and every two weeks to prepare meals. Now after more than 10 weeks, his home has become very untidy, and he also needs help doing his clothes washing. While he’s been an EÉSAD client for years, they have no workers available to tend to his needs.

Marthe and Jocelyn are parents in a family that is currently being supervised by the Quebec youth protection office. Marthe has mental health problems and suffers from depression. Jocelyn is confined to a motorized wheelchair and has to receive nourishment in liquid form through a straw. They have a four-year-old son who has an attention-deficit disorder. The youth protection office has ordered that their housekeeping should be done by a PSW once a week, and this is a condition for them to keep their child. However, according to Massicotte, this family hasn’t been able to receive help from an EÉSAD PSW through most of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unable to get PSW help

Nicole lives in a subsidized low-rent housing project and has reduced autonomy. She tends not to do proper housekeeping in her apartment. Her sister who lives outside Montreal used to come help her, but can no longer do so because of COVID-19 travel restrictions. A worker at the housing project informed the EÉSAD that Nicole had become depressed and was no longer eating. As well, her apartment is now very untidy, garbage is accumulating and not being disposed of properly and the smell is getting out into the public hallway. The EÉSAD has almost no one to help her.

Finally, Rita is 96 years old and has had a leg amputated. Currently, she is receiving EÉSAD service at home. However, at the beginning of the pandemic she didn’t receive service for two weeks. Isolated and regarded as highly vulnerable, she has no family to provide help and no other other means other than EÉSAD support to receive food. According to the EÉSAD network, her usual PSW has been contemplating quitting to seek the better-remunerated work at CHSLDs.