Tag Archives: Elinor Caplan

Two-thirds of Ontario PSWs excluded from wage adjustment

Photograph of former Health Minister Deb Matthews with Finance Minister Charles Sousa announcing the breakthrough increase for PSWs in April.

Former Health Minister Deb Matthews with Finance Minister Charles Sousa announcing the breakthrough increase for PSWs in April. (Photo: Ontario Government).

It was clear from the start that the much applauded increase for Ontario’s Personal Support Workers was not going to apply to all.

Back in April the government noted that “more than 34,000 of Ontario’s PSWs deliver care, assistance and support to seniors and other people with complex care needs in their own homes and communities.”

That was the target group for Ontario’s new funding aimed at bringing stability to a workforce that was turning over every two years or less. Given the emphasis on continuity of care as a measure of quality, this high level of turnover was evidence of colossal failure the Wynne government couldn’t ignore.

These 34,000 represent only about a third of the PSWs in the province. That means for two-thirds, there will be no additional adjustment outside of their existing collective agreement or individual non-union contract.

Only these 34,000 PSWs will receive the $1.50 an hour increase retroactive to April 1st of this year. Those wage adjustments and retroactive pay are expected in September.

The government has committed to increase the hourly rate for this group by a total of $4 an hour by April 1, 2016. By 2016 the new minimum wage for PSWs will be $16.50/hour.

Given the scope of the plan issued in April, it was no surprise that PSWs working in hospitals and long-term care homes would be excluded by the government from this new funding.

What is surprising is news that the government has arbitrarily excluded a significant group of PSWs who do work within the home and community sector. According to a brief released by CUPE, the government is denying the same increase to those who exclusively provide homemaking and work in community mental health/supportive housing. Earlier descriptions suggested these PSWs would likely be in the target group.

In some cases, these excluded workers are often employed by the same agencies that will be passing on increases to their colleagues who provide personal care.

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Matthews promises to improve PSW compensation — but it will take time

There may soon be good news for the province’s personal support workers.

“When PSWs tell me they can make more at Tim Horton’s, I sit up and take notice,” Health Minister Deb Matthews was reported to have said yesterday at the Empire Club of Canada.

According to the Toronto Star, Matthews promises to improve the wages of the province’s personal support workers but said it would take time to figure out the best way to do it.

Throughout December’s SEIU PSW strike at Red Cross Care Partners we pointed out that the minimum wage for PSWs has not been increased since 2006, frozen at $12.50 per hour. That’s below the poverty level for workers the province is counting on to make its health transformation work.

That minimum wage is far less than what former Health Minister Elinor Caplan had recommended in her 2005 review of competitive bidding in home care. Caplan recognized that there would be no continuity of care when PSWs were turning over due to poor wages and working conditions. The Star reports today that this turnover rate is 60 per cent annually – clearly the government should have listened. It’s not too late to listen now.

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Health care insiders dominate new “Patients’ Association”

In 2005 OPSEU confronted former Ontario Health Minister Elinor Caplan with a series of anecdotes provided to us by patients in the Niagara area. The stories dealt with problems home care patients encountered when their long-time home care provider – the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON) – was replaced through a Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) competition.

None of the winning bidders had any prior experience – or staff – in the Niagara region.

Caplan had been appointed by George Smitherman to conduct a review into the competitive bidding system for home care.

At the time Caplan dismissed the anecdotes, telling us “they were just stories.” She said the nine stories we had received through an OPSEU hotline represented a handful of the hundreds of clients served in the region.

Now Caplan has resurfaced as a member of an organization that claims to be the voice for Canadian health care patients.

Begun by Sholom Glouberman, the Patients’ Association of Canada received charitable status in January and launched their first conference in February.

While the PAC claims to be a voice for patients, the minutes from their most recent meeting distinguishes them as an educational organization, not an advocacy group. However, Glouberman also writes that “patients too, need organizational support to bring their perspective to help the system change and modernize. They cannot do this as individuals.”

All of us could consider ourselves as patients, however, the PAC appears to be teeming with the kind of individuals they claim are already influencing health care decision-making, including professionals, policy makers and politicians.

The organization’s four-person board is a case in point.

Glouberman is “philosopher in residence” at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care and is an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s SchoolofHealth Policy, Management and Evaluation.

Vytas Mickevicius, who serves as treasurer, claims to have had a career in the broader health sector, particularly with hospitals. In fact, he was the Executive lead for e-Health on the Local Health Integration Network’s e-Health Council. Along with Glouberman, Mickevicius is also an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto School of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation.

Neil Stuart serves as VP of the Patients’ Association. Some may know him as Chair of the Ontario Hospital Association’s Governance Committee, something he left off of his on-line PAC “autobiography.”

The last person on the PAC board is Dr. Elke Grenzer, who teaches at the University of Waterloo. According to the Culture of Cities website (an organization for which she is a founding member) she is co-editing a volume on the culture of birth and writing on jurisdictional disputes between midwives and obstetricians.

The group claims to have some 800 members, although 30 are up on their web site accompanied with “autobiographies.” Despite claiming to be a national organization, almost all 30 have connections to central Ontario, including several to the University of Toronto.

The list includes other academics, students, health care consultants, a lawyer, at least two physicians, two registered nurses, and several individuals who have had past connections to the Ministry of Health – including Caplan, who was Minister, and Ted Ball, who was Chief of Staff to former Health Minister Larry Grossman.

The group intends to work on patient advocacy guide, using work from Michael Decter and Francesca Grosso as a starting point. Grosso was director of policy for former Tory Health Minister Tony Clement and Decter is former Deputy Minister of Health under the Rae NDP government.

Funding for one part of their work – physician “Patients’ Choice Awards” – is provided by the Ontario Medical Association.

The PAC states that “the core of PAC’s mission is to listen to the health experiences of patients and those who care for them.”

Mrs. Caplan may need to think of this listening as more than “just stories.”

Patients Association of Canada: http://patientsassociation.ca/

Read some of the stories Elinor Caplan didn’t want to pay attention to:


More on Competitive Bidding: www.whatwillyoudo.ca