Let’s be clear: there is no present deadline for anybody to get on the Personal Support Worker (PSW) Registry. Employers may be setting their own deadline, but this is not coming from the PSW Registry itself.
There was a deadline of April 1, 2013 for the home and community care sector. On March 14th a letter was sent out informing employers that this deadline was no more. This is the second time the deadline for that sector has fallen by the wayside. Originally the home care sector was to have registered by the end of last August, but too few PSWs actually did that.
There was never any registration deadline for PSWs working in other health care sectors.
Without any enforcement mechanism, the April 1st deadline is pointless. At present there is no penalty for public employers wishing to hire someone to do the work of a PSW who isn’t on the Registry.
According to the PSW Registry, at this time registration is totally voluntary.
Ontario has promised three million new hours of home care personal support services over the next three years. While it sounds like a lot, keep in mind that about 32 million hours of public home care are delivered annually and another 20 million hours are paid for privately. Further, the province is leaning heavily on the sector to offload clients from Ontario’s hospitals. The province tells us that the new hours will assist 90,000 more seniors, or 30,000 more per year. In 2011/12 a total 637,727 clients were served by home care according to the Ontario Home Care Association.
Last year the province introduced a PSW Registry (Personal Support Worker), which sets qualification standards for these workers in order to be on the registry. Without the bother of creating a specific professional college for these workers, the registry was supposed to be a way of maintaining discipline among a group that is generally ill defined and whose duties can vary dramatically.
Just before the December holidays, the province quietly introduced regulatory changes to expand which agencies can provide PSWs to do this work.
The change in policy allows community support service agencies (CSS) to deliver personal support services, but will not require the PSWs hired by these agencies to be on the new registry – at least not yet.
These support agencies have traditionally carried out functions such as delivering meals on wheels, carrying out homemaking duties, running social day programs, and providing transportation services to the frail and elderly. While such services can include respite care, they are generally not the kind of agencies that would provide a bath or assistance with toileting or dressing, for example.
As the deadline approaches for home care personal support workers to register with the government’s new PSW Registry, key issues remain up in the air and are unlikely to be resolved soon. PSWs may very well ask what they are registering for?
Home care employers like the VON are telling their PSWs that they must be registered by the end of the month, but the government anticipates that only 70 per cent of the estimated 26,000 publicly funded home care PSWs will meet that deadline.
What happens to the 8,000 unregistered PSWs is anybody’s guess. The PSW Registry Steering Committee does acknowledge it hasn’t worked through the implications of mandatory registration or how it will be enforced. No kidding.
CUPE announced last week that they are departing from the steering committee, calling the Registry “a dollar-store form of regulation, which benefits the province at the expense of the rights and dignity of personal support workers.”
Health Minister Deb Matthews rose in the legislature to announce June 13 the new PSW Registry is up and running. Initially PSWs (Personal Support Workers) in the home care sector are being asked to sign up, followed by those working Ontario’s long term care homes.
This is the same registry the Health Professionals Regulatory Advisory Committee (HPRAC) recommended against in 2006 after extensive consultations with PSWs, employers, clients and other stakeholders.
HPRAC instead recommended additional steps to be taken to “improve PSWs education and training, staffing and supervision, and to provide better access to satisfactory recourse for patients and clients as a means of addressing instances of abuse and misconduct.”
HPRAC felt the cost of establishing such a registry would be prohibitive compared to the benefits it could generate.