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‘Critical’ shortage of PSWs in South Simcoe, York, MPP told

York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney vows to look into the issue while visiting Community & Home Assistance to Seniors (CHATS) day program in Bradford today

There is a “critical” shortage of personal support workers in South Simcoe and York Region, according to a local seniors organization that wants the provincial government’s help to remedy the situation.

York-Simcoe MPP Caroline Mulroney heard this on Friday while visiting Community & Home Assistance to Seniors (CHATS) in Bradford West Gwillimbury.

“There is a critical shortage of personal support workers. We’re finding it challenging to find support workers,” CHATS CEO Christina Bisanz told Mulroney.

She said it can be more difficult to find personal support workers because they can have long travel times to visit clients in rural areas, and CHATS pays them less than larger organizations such as hospitals and long-term care homes.

“We can’t guarantee them full-time hours,” she added.

Mulroney said she would look into the issue.

“Access to medical care is an issue here and across the province,” she said. “I will look more closely at the issue of personal support workers and see what we can do to help.”

Mulroney said she was pleased to see on her tour of CHATS the “breadth of the services” it provides, including the social aspect of its day program.

Mulroney got a big welcome from CHATS clients gathered for the day program at the Holland Street West office, with one man, Newmarket resident Garth Bush, holding up a handmade sign welcoming the MPP.

“They (CHATS) entertain us. They bring people in as often as they can,” said Bush, of Mulroney’s visit.

Originally from Alberta, Bush now lives with his son, who works full-time in Toronto, so he was often alone at home all day. He said becoming involved in CHATS has made a big difference for his mental health.

“I would be alone in a home for 12 hours, five days a week in Newmarket,” he said, adding he now gets picked up every weekday morning to spend the day in CHATS programs with his friends. “I’m part of everything here. I’m one of them. It’s important to me.”

Mulroney asked Bisanz whether CHATS has a walking group because “my dad’s almost 80 and we talk about walking all the time,” she said.

CHATS does not have a walking group, but Bisanz outlined many of the programs it does offer, including assisted living, caregiver support, social and congregate dining, Meals on Wheels, transportation services, and home help, for about 1,500 seniors and caregivers in York-Simcoe.

Some of the home help can include handyman services, snow clearing, lawn maintenance, and free safety assessments for the installation of stair lifts and shower grab bars, as needed.

Bisanz said she wanted to give Mulroney the message there is “value of home and community support” in helping seniors stay in their homes longer, safely and with dignity, and that, in turn, helps lower health-care costs for hospitals and long-term care facilities.

The number of seniors the organization serves has increased 16 per cent in the last five years, but its base funding has only increased 2.4 per cent in eight years, according to CHATS.

Currently, three per cent of CHATS’ clients are aged older than 90, and that number is going up, Bisanz said.

“They're one of the fastest growing seniors populations in York Region. We just know there’s going to be more need for the kind of support we provide,” she said.