Thousands send in applications to work in Quebec long-term care homes

Applicants will be paid $21 hourly while they complete the course, which will be offered in both French and English. Once hired, the orderlies will earn $26 hourly in CHSLDs.

'If all I have done is resolve the situation in the CHSLDs, I will have done a lot,' says Premier Legault

A patient attendant heads into CHSLD Éloria Lepage in Montreal in late April. The province has launched a new program aimed at easing the desperate staff shortage at long-term care residences. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Premier François Legault says applications are pouring in for a new program to train orderlies to work in the province's long-term care institutions by September. 

More than 55,000 applications were completed online by early Wednesday, Legault said in a tweet the day after launching the new training program. 

Government officials will be reviewing those applications to determine who would be a good fit for the program and whether applicants are eligible. The registration period ends on Friday at 5 p.m.

"As there will be both theory and practice, the person will quickly see if they're made for this," Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said at a news conference Tuesday. 

The goal is to have 10,000 new orderlies, known in French as préposés aux bénéficiaires, or PABs, ready to work in the province's chronically understaffed homes in time for the possible arrival of a second wave of COVID-19 cases.

For that reason, the course is tailored specifically for work in long-term care homes, or CHSLDs, where the shortage of orderlies has been most acute.

Roberge said if graduates of the program wish to work in hospitals or as home-care patient attendants, they will need to go back to school to do further training.

They will be paid $21 hourly while they complete the course, which will be offered in both the English and French school systems. Once hired, the orderlies will earn $26 hourly, which works out to an annual income of $49,000.

Legault said some program applicants may be asked to move to different regions, depending on staffing needs, but that would be done on a voluntary basis. 

The program is not open to asylum seekers, many of whom have been working on the front line during the pandemic. Students must be residents of Quebec and Canadian citizens.

"The ones that are already trained and worked in our CHSLDs in the last few months, we're open, one by one, to accept them as immigrants. We said that and continue to say that," Legault said. 

Last month, Legault announced that Immigration Minister Simon-Jolin Barrette would look into giving asylum seekers who work in long-term care homes a chance to stay in the province.

More measures to alleviate shortage

The new training program, as well as the substantial increase in salaries for PABs, are the latest in a series of government initiatives since the start of the pandemic aimed at resolving the long-standing staff shortage in long-term care homes.

In a separate announcement last week, Jolin-Barrette outlined a plan to recruit 550 immigrants to work as orderlies.

With so many CHSLD workers falling sick to the coronavirus or self-isolating due to exposure, the shortage has been so severe that the government has had to resort to increasingly drastic measures to provide the most basic patient care —bringing in workers from other health-care settings and turning to the Canadian military to help out in some of the hardest-hit facilities.

So far, 2,467 CHSLD residents have died of COVID-19 — more than half of the province's overall death toll.

"I do take my share of responsibility," Legault said of the CHSLD crisis Tuesday. 

"I said to myself that by the end of my mandate, if all I have done is resolve the situation in the CHSLDs, I will have done a lot. Simply treating elderly people in CHSLDs well would be a great accomplishment."


Franca G. Mignacca is a journalist at CBC Quebec.


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