Thank you very much.
My name is Miranda Ferrier. I am a personal support worker. I have worked in long-term care and home care settings in Ontario for many years as a front-line personal support worker. I'm also the founder and president of the Canadian Support Workers Association and the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association.
Unfortunately, violence faced by health care workers is nothing new. Over the last 20 years, the incidence of violence against support workers has increased to the point where this profession, and consequently health care in Canada, is now firmly past crisis. In Canada, support workers occupy a very unique role in health care in that they are responsible daily for providing Canadians with the most personal and intimate care. They become a constant for these Canadians and, many times, a part of their family.
Support workers face violence on the job daily. This has become so prevalent that it is now viewed as the norm. Is this right? Absolutely not. However, we believe that it will take a small change in our health care system to help rectify this issue for the support workers.
Right now support workers are responsible for caring for up to 15 residents per shift in long-term care homes, or more, in some cases. They also care for up to 16 clients a day in home care across our province.
One of the situations that comes to my mind occurred in August of last year, near Toronto, Ontario. One of our member personal support workers was stabbed on the job, while working in home care, by a grandson of a client. She survived, but that just shows how we are at such a critical and crisis level.
No matter where they work, the system is constantly plagued by short-staffing due to two reasons. There is no professional acknowledgement, as personal support workers and support workers across our wonderful nation are not regulated, and there is no accountability. As a result, the support workers in Canada are professionally isolated, lack the tools to advocate for their own safety and must contend with a profession that is 600% more dangerous than being a police officer or firefighter. On the flip side, they can be fired for abuse, walk down the street and get hired as a support worker again without any recourse. Add in the levels of burnout across our nation and we have our current situation.
In order to properly address the issue of violence faced by support workers, the provinces and federal government must allow the support worker to have the same professional respect offered to all other members practising health care in Canada. This professional recognition is not only long overdue, but it would end the pervasive culture of fear so prevalent in health care. Our Ontario association has long been lobbying and advocating for self-regulation of the support workers, even receiving an endorsement from the Canadian Nurses Association.
The presence of this culture of acceptance has resulted in a situation where the support workers are simply unable to report incidents of abuse for fear their employment will be terminated and their professional reputations ruined.
In order to effectively address the issue of violence faced by support workers, the Canadian Support Workers Association and the Ontario Personal Support Workers Association are formally calling on this committee to endorse and formally recommend to provincial health ministries that the Canadian Support Workers Association and its provincial chapters form the self-regulatory body for the support workers across Canada. This action would promote a recognition of the value that these workers provide to health care in Canada through effective and confidential whistle-blower protection. It would end the professional regulatory gap that allows for the continued tolerance of abusive behaviours towards the support workers and those in their care. It would provide assurance that there will be a sustainable and stable workforce to care for Canada's most vulnerable for decades to come. We are currently losing support workers at a rate of 33% quarterly.
Self-regulation will create a respected profession, which will provide the safety net and accountability so desperately needed for our most vulnerable in all of our communities across Canada.
This model of self-regulation has proven successful partially in Ontario, with our association there representing over 32,000 personal support workers. We have had no abuse claims to date.
Thank you very much for giving me the time.