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How Do The Headlines Affect Us?
January 15th, 2016

Since 2014 we have been presented with a number of headlines that may, in themselves seem isolated, but they will probably affect you and your family sooner than you think.

  • Ontario Government Raises Minimum Wage
  • Minister of Health Announces $4.00/hour Pay Increase for Personal Support Workers
  • Arbitrator Sides With Nurses on Raises

On one hand, none of us would question caregivers’ ability to earn a living or fail to recognize that this critical group of caregivers have been historically under-paid, given their significant contribution to our health care system.

What do these increases mean to you and your family?

First, they probably do NOT mean that there will be more nurses or PSWs in the labour force, particularly in the short term.  Pressure on the supply of caregivers has been created by many factors.  The days when the career choices for Canadian women seemed to be limited to nurse or teacher are long gone.  Today, those who are interested in healthcare probably look to becoming doctors or researchers.  Our health care system has become greatly dependent on new Canadians for jobs such as registered nurses (RN), registered practical nurses (RPN) or personal support workers (PSW).

When pay rates increase, won’t the system just absorb the cost?

Health care is one of the largest items in the province’s budget and its ability to increase is limited, which means that there is a virtual cap on public funds, particularly in the short term.  What changes is how fund are distributed.  How far will the funds go to address the many different areas of concern?  For example, care provided by the province through Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) is severely affected.  When a 33% pay increase is announced for PSWs, but not offset by a corresponding increase in funding, caregivers get paid more per hour, but the system can provide fewer hours.  The hours that cannot be served by the CCAC’s or the LHIN’s are then covered by private care.

The next hurdle is the supply and demand of caregivers.  When government legislation makes changes to publicly funded care, the private side is also affected.  The numbers of registered caregivers (RN & RPN) and personal support workers (PSW) are limited.  One might think of them as a large pool of skilled workers being attracted by hospitals, CCAC agencies, private care agencies and long term care or retirement facilities.  As all these parties compete for caregivers, the cost goes up.

Other factors are the ever growing employment costs including: Canada Pension, Employment Insurance, Workers Safety Insurance Board, Employee Health Tax and a possible Ontario Pension Plan.  Some require contributions from the workers but all require contribution from employers.

So what is ahead?

The only thing that is certain is that the cost of care will rise.  No one knows how fast or how high.  We can also be sure that we will all be facing increased direct, out of pocket costs.  With a population that needs more and more care, it will prove increasingly difficult for government to provide the care that you may have expected in past years.

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