Ottawa

Long wait for home care 'should not be happening,' says health minister

Christine Elliott said she's aware of the shortage of personal support workers (PSWs) in Ottawa and vowed the Progressive Conservatives are taking measures to stem the number of workers leaving the profession.

Woman stranded in Ottawa Hospital for nearly two years due to PSW shortage

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot told the legislature Thursday that when patients are ready to leave the hospital, they 'should be able to do so with the supports and services they need at home.' (The Canadian Press)

Ontario's health minister says she's aware of the shortage of personal support workers (PSWs) in Ottawa and is vowing the Progressive Conservatives are taking measures to stem the number of workers leaving the profession.

Christine Elliott's statement at Queen's Park came one day after CBC News brought the story of Maria Konopeskas to light. 

The 62-year-old former high school teacher has cerebral palsy and went to the Ottawa Hospital in November 2017 for a minor operation unrelated to her condition. 

But nearly two years later, after recovering from that surgery, Konopeskas is still in hospital.  

The Champlain Local Health Integration Network, the regional health authority based in Ottawa that co-ordinates home care, said Konopeskas needs three PSWs to lift her safely twice a day, but due to a lack of workers they can't provide that. 

'Plight' raised at Queen's Park

During Thursday's question period in the Ontario legislature, opposition leader Andrea Horwath asked a series of questions about health care, while also describing what she called Konopeskas's "plight". 

"Does [Premier Doug Ford] believe that patients who receive minor surgery should be forced to live in hospitals for years at a time?" the NDP leader asked.

Ford referred the question to the health minister.  

"I am familiar with the situation in Ottawa," said Elliott. "It should not be happening. When people are ready to leave the hospital, they should be able to do so with the supports and services they need at home."

Elliott told the legislature that many new PSWs are choosing not to work in the field, and she's working with the minister of long-term care on "human resources planning." 

"There is more work that we need to do," said Elliott.  

Maria Konopeskas, a 62-year-old former high school teacher with cerebral palsy, has been in hospital since November 2017 after undergoing a minor surgery unrelated to her condition. (CBC)

Robin Meyers, the director of Ottawa community support services at Carefor, previously told CBC News that in order to retain PSWs, they need to be paid more.

Her agency employs more than 500 PSWs, and Meyers said there is inequity in the system: workers who provide support in homes are paid, on average, between $5 and $6 an hour less than those who work in hospitals. 

Elliott made no mention of additional funding to help solve the shortage.