EMployment and PrecariOus Work in Toronto’s Health Sector: Evaluation and Research (EMPOWER)
Precarious employment – work that is contract, part-time or temporary, with low wages that fluctuate, and usually does not include benefits – can have a detrimental impact on our health. Personal Support Workers (PSWs) play an important role in healthcare but often have among the most precarious work conditions in the sector. This has been a longstanding concern, but has garnered increased attention during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The EMPOWER project is a community-based participatory action research project, with PSWs directly engaged in all aspects of the project. An advisory committee made up of PSWs, labour representatives, and other stakeholders provides continuous guidance on the research design, interpretation of results, and dissemination.
We will use Respondent Driven Sampling to collect data via online surveys and in-depth interviews with PSWs who work in homecare in the Greater Toronto Area. We have added a module that focuses on COVID-19. Findings will be shared with the Ministries of Health and Long-Term Care, the Ministry of Labour, as well as other health system leaders, such as Ontario Health.
This project has been supported by a grant from the Metcalf Foundation.
Participate in Online Survey
EMPOWER is now recruiting PSWs in Greater Toronto Area! Help us better understand the work conditions and health of PSWs, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, by participating in a confidential, 20-minute online survey ($20 honorarium will be provided).
To participate, you must be 18 years of age or older, and have worked as a PSW in GTA in the last year. Upon completion of the survey, there’s also an opportunity to recruit up to three of your PSW colleagues to the study and a $10 honorarium will be offered for each successful referral.
For more information, please contact Pinky Hapsari at empowerprojectTO@smh.ca
Reports and Presentations
April 14, 2020: Andrew Pinto, Pinky Hapsari and Debra Slater wrote an op-ed in the Toronto Star on the impact of COVID-19 on Personal Support Workers (PSWs), and how their treatment (e.g. lack of PPE, forced to find work in multiple locations) is emblematic of their treatment by the health system. This op-ed emerged from the EMPOWER Study, a community-based participatory research project by the Upstream Lab focused on improving work conditions for PSWs.
June 10, 2020: An advisory committee member of EMPOWER, Debra Slater, sat on the “COVID-19 & Black Communities” panel for discussion around “The conditions of PSWs and crisis of Long Term Care during COVID”. This session is part of a regular online discussion series held by Network Weaver for the Network for Advancement of Black Communities (NABC).
For any inquiries about the EMPOWER project, please contact the Research Coordinator: Pinky Hapsari
Relevant Guidelines and Resources for PSWs
- Ontario Ministry of Health – COVID-19 Guidance: Home and Community Care Providers
- Public Health Ontario – COVID-19 Webinar – Healthcare Worker Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Use and Cohorting in Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes
- Public Health Ontario – Recommended Steps for Putting on and Taking off Personal Protective Equipment
- Public Health Ontario – How to Self-Isolate While Working
- Public Health Ontario – Prevention and Management of COVID-19 in Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes
- Public Health Ontario – COVID-19: Infection Prevention and Control Checklist for Long-Term Care and Retirement Homes
- Public Health Ontario – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Medical Isolation Gowns in Health Care
- Public Health Ontario – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Universal Mask Use in Health Care
- Public Health Ontario – Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Droplet and Contact Precautions Non-Acute Care Facilities
- Public Health Ontario – Technical Brief: IPAC Recommendations for Use of Personal Protective Equipment for Care of Individuals with Suspect or Confirmed COVID‑19 (see page 8)
- Free Online Training Program for PSW by Institute of Health Policy, Management and Evaluation, University of Toronto – PSW Approach to Quality
- Presentation Slides Summarizing Workers’ Rights (prepared by Nabila Qureshi of the Income Security Advocacy Centre) – Your Rights as a Worker
Media Reports & Interview
- April 3, 2020: CBC – Why the ‘invisible workers’ cleaning up COVID-19 need better labour protection
- April 3, 2020: Ottawa Citizen – ‘It is a war we are fighting’: PSWs, other workers say they want better protection against COVID-19
- April 4, 2020: CBC – Why COVID-19 has personal support workers feeling uneasy during homecare visits
- April 13, 2020: Toronto Star – Do we need to rethink homecare after the pandemic?
- April 15, 2020: Toronto Star – Doug Ford didn’t protect long term care facilities from COVID-19, neither did the rest of us
- April 15, 2020: Global News – Trudeau looks to support long-term care workers, boost wages for essential workers
- April 15, 2020: CBC – Ontario scaled back comprehensive, annual inspections of nursing homes to only a handful last year
- April 17, 2020: Toronto Star – Ontario records first COVID-19 death of nursing-home worker
- April 17, 2020: Toronto Star – Personal support worker at Sienna Altamont Care Community in Scarborough dies of COVID-19, union says
- April 19, 2020: Toronto Star – Temporary agency workers have long been a crutch for a care system in crisis, experts say. Now, they are exempt from new COVID-19 health directives
- April 22, 2020: Toronto Star – ‘Frontline workers do not have N95s but supervisors are wearing them’: Troubling allegations emerge at care homes hit by COVID-19
- April 25, 2020: CBC – Ontario announces $4 an hour pandemic pay increase for front-line workers
- April 25, 2020: CBC – Can this pandemic be the crisis that finally forces us to fix long-term care?
- April 29, 2020: Toronto Star – The trauma will change you forever. COVID-19 has exposed problems in long-term care. Will the response fix it?
- April 29, 2020: Toronto Star – Ontario sees deadliest day; 8-month-old child tests positive at Toronto daycare; health-care worker dies in Peel Region
- April 29, 2020: CTV News – Military arrives at Etobicoke long-term care residence following 38 COVID-19 deaths
- May 1, 2020: Toronto Star – Until COVID-19 hit, PSWs went virtually unnoticed. That’s changed and some say we have a lot of lessons to learn about the trials they face
- May 2, 2020: CTV News – PSW death sheds light on risk facing health-care workers, home care patients
- May 3, 2020: CTV News – Fourth health-care worker dies of COVID-19 in Ontario, union calls for better protection
- May 5, 2020: Toronto Star – They said there was no playbook for dealing with COVID-19 outbreak at nursing homes. There were several.
- May 5, 2020: Toronto Star – She stopped work last Monday at a Toronto long-term-care centre. By Friday, she died at home, alone
- May 7, 2020: City News – More people dying of coronavirus in for-profit LTC homes than publicly-owned
- May 9, 2020: CTV News – No easy fix for long-term care home problems highlighted by COVID-19
- May 13, 2020: Global News – Coronavirus: Emergency order allows Ontario to control management of long-term care homes
- May 13, 2020: Toronto Star – First nurse in Ontario dies of COVID-19, province warns of new symptoms in children
- May 15, 2020: Toronto Star – Ontario isn’t tracking the health-care job most likely to get COVID-19: personal support worker
- May 21, 2020: The Local – Providing Care, Barely Getting By
- May 23, 2020: Toronto Star – This Black PSW with COVID-19 was sent home from hospital. Two days later he died
- May 26, 2020: Healthy Debates – To safely reopen the economy, we need paid sick days for all. #PaidSickLeaveSavesLives
- May 27, 2020: Toronto Star – City-run long-term-care homes have seen fewer COVID-19 deaths. Are staff wages the reason
- May 27, 2020: CTV News – Ontario taking over management of five long-term care homes following scathing military report
- June 5, 2020: Toronto Star – Ontario’s nursing homes lost half their workers to the first wave of COVID-19. Will they be ready when the second wave hits?
- July 3, 2020: CTV News – Canadian Armed Forces leaves final Ontario long-term care home
- July 12, 2020: CTV News – Health-care unions considering political action over Ontario’s emergency act
- July 24, 2020: CBC News – Why err on the side of caution as COVID-19 looms in health-care workplaces
- July 27, 2020: The Guardian – ‘What about us?’ Canada home care workers’ lockdown heroics neglected
- August 25, 2020: Institute for Work & health – What research can do: Estimating the role of workplaces in COVID-19 transmissions
- September 2, 2020: Toronto Star – Doug Ford promises raises for ‘overworked’ and ‘underpaid’ nursing-home heroes, but the workers’ unions warn talk is cheap
- September 5, 2020: 980 CKNW – Personal support workers are the backbone of health care but the bottom of the power structure (Dr. Barathi Sethi)
- September 14, 2020: CBC – COVID-19 has taken ‘heavy toll’ on female immigrants working in health care, report says
- September 19, 2020: Toronto Star – Nearly 20 per cent of COVID-19 infections in Canada among health-care workers by late July
- October 2, 2020: Toronto Star – Doug Ford boosts pay for personal support workers as Ontario records 538 new COVID-19 cases
- October 4, 2020: Toronto Star – Canadian health care workers hit harder by COVID-19 because of lack of N95 masks, report finds
- October 11, 2020: Toronto Star – Public health won’t tell us which employers have COVID-19 outbreaks. But we obtained WSIB data to help paint a picture
- October 30, 2020: CP24 – Front-line workers who left LTC homes in May won’t come back, commission hears
- November 2, 2020: Toronto Star – Ontario is moving to four hours of hands-on care daily for nursing-home residents by 2025
- November 4, 2020: Community Foundations – Invisible Workers: How the healthcare sector is failing its feminized and racialized labour force
- November 25, 2020: The Globe and Mail – Ontario health care workers detail COVID-19′s devastating toll on working conditions and mental health
- December 14, 2020: CBC News – Personal support worker becomes first Ontarian to get dose of COVID-19 vaccine
- January 6, 2021: CTV News – Nurse working at Ontario long-term care home dies after contracting COVID-19
- January 4, 2021: National Observer – Personal support workers risk their own health to care for others
- January 8, 2021: Toronto Star – What good are COVID-19 vaccines if people are afraid? We need to build trust with racialized communities, specifically PSWs facing vaccine hesitancy
Ontario Government News and Announcement
- April 15, 2020: Ontario Ramping Up Protection for Long-Term Care Residents
- April 22, 2020: Ontario Takes Immediate Steps to Further Protect Long-Term Care Residents and Staff During COVID-19 Outbreak
- April 25, 2020: Ontario Supporting Frontline Heroes of COVID-19 with Pandemic Pay
- May 13, 2020: Ontario Takes Steps to Better Protect Long-Term Care Residents and Staff During the COVID-19 Outbreak
- May 19, 2020: Ontario Announces Independent Commission into Long-Term Care
- May 26, 2020: Ontario Takes Immediate Action to Investigate Worst Hit Long-Term Care Homes
- May 27, 2020: Ontario Taking Action at High Risk Long-Term Care Homes
- May 28, 2020: Ontario Takes Further Action to Protect Seniors and Staff in Long-Term Care Homes during COVID-19 Outbreak
Other Relevant Reports and Publications
- May 15, 2020: Canadian Military Report on Long-term Care Facilities in Ontario
- July 2, 2020: Restoring Trust: COVID-19 and The Future of Long-Term Care (Royal Society of Canada Task Force on COVID-19)
- August 4, 2020: Extreme Vulnerability of Home Care Workers During the COVID-19 Pandemic—A Call to Action
- August 4, 2020: Experiences of Home Health Care Workers in New York City During the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Pandemic – A Qualitative Analysis
- August 8, 2020: Staffing Levels and COVID‐19 Cases and Outbreaks in U.S. Nursing Homes
- September 10, 2020: Mortality Rates From COVID-19 Are Lower In Unionized Nursing Homes
- October 23, 2020: First Interim Report of Ontario’s Long-Term Care COVID-19 Commission
- November 4, 2020: Adequacy of COVID infection control and PPE linked to workers’ mental health: study
- November 11, 2020: Sacrificed: Ontario Healthcare Workers in the Time of COVID-19