“What does it cost to care?” Long-term care needs $1.8 billion to reach safe staffing levels: report

June 23, 2020

TORONTO—Ontario’s beleaguered long-term care system needs a funding injection of $1.8 billion a year to bring wages and staffing up to recommended levels of quality of care and safety, according to a new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA).

“The most potent factor shaping quality of care and safety of both residents and workers in long-term care facilities is staffing levels,” said Sheila Block, CCPA Ontario senior economist and co-author of What Does it Cost to Care? “The ongoing tragedy in long-term care during COVID-19 is the sad result of successive provincial governments’ relentless underfunding of the sector.”

 Bringing hands-on care levels up to 4.1 hours per resident per day—a widely recognized standard for quality care—would require a 51 per cent increase in caregiving hours and cost an additional $1.6 billion in 2020-21, the CCPA study estimates. Block and co-author Simran Dhunna estimated it would cost a further $285 million a year to bring up wages for non-union registered nurses (RNs), registered practical nurses (RPNs), and personal support workers (PSWs) to average union rates.

 “Long-term care is already highly unionized, but non-union wages are nonetheless clearly too low,” said Block. Non-union RNs earned an average wage of $29.46 an hour in 2019 while non-union RPNs earned $23.72 and non-union personal support workers took home $20.39.   

The long-term care workforce is predominantly female and disproportionately racialized, and many staff are immigrants, the CCPA report notes.

“While $1.8 billion may seem like a lot, it represents just a 1.2 per cent increase to overall program spending by the province,” said Block. “Furthermore, it is less than half of the $4 billion a year that is missing from provincial coffers as a result of tax cuts brought in by the Ford government.

“The premier has heaped praise on frontline health-care workers for their work during the pandemic, and rightly so,” she said. “Now is the time to go beyond words and support them in a very real way, and that means better jobs and more co-workers.

“A fairly paid workforce with adequate staffing levels is a crucial first step toward a quality long-term care system in Ontario.” 

What Does it Cost to Care? Improving Wages and Staffing Levels in Ontario’s Long-Term Care Facilities is available on the CCPA website. 

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For more information, contact Randy Robinson at 416-788-7003 or [email protected].