Toronto, Ontario, Feb. 14, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Not-for-profit long-term care homes are spending a concerning amount of their budgets on predatory temporary staffing agencies, some of which are exploiting the health human resource crisis by taking advantage of homes, according to a survey of 100 Ontario homes conducted by AdvantAge Ontario.
"Our members are spending tens of millions of dollars on temporary staff, rather than permanent care," said Lisa Levin, Chief Executive Officer of AdvantAge Ontario, which represents not-for-profit, municipally owned and charitable homes. "This is a problem and it's getting worse. We need government to push out the bad operators who are preying on homes in the midst of a staffing crisis."
The survey found homes are paying a very high price to fill staffing shortages ? which, in the case of registered nurses (RNs), for example, are vacant 28 per cent of the time at respondent homes.
Some predatory agencies are taking advantage of the situation by charging exorbitant rates. Homes are forced to pay on average $88 per hour for a temporary RN, more than twice their typical wage of $43 per hour.
One agency charged $150 per hour for this same position, 249 per cent more than the typical rate.
On top of these high wages, homes are paying agency service fees of up to 35 per cent, premiums for short-notice staff, and travel costs.
Rates for rural and northern homes are 30 per cent higher than urban homes.
"This is price gouging, plain and simple," said Levin. "It's an unsustainable situation."
AdvantAge Ontario is urging government to come up with a comprehensive health human resources strategy that puts restrictions on hourly rates for temporary staff. The plan would also improve wages, benefits and working conditions for health care workers.
The request is contained in the Association's 2023 pre-budget submission, which also calls on government to:
The requests are designed to help stabilize a sector reeling from decades of chronic underfunding, coupled with the continuing impacts of COVID-19 and the burden of new red tape on homes.
The high fees charged by some temporary staffing agencies is the latest pressure on not-for-profit homes, which a large majority of Ontarians choose as their first choice for LTC homes.
AdvantAge Ontario's survey found that temporary direct care staff (which include Registered Practical Nurses, RNs and Personal Support Workers) worked an average of 7 per cent of their homes' total hours but were paid 16.4 per cent of all wages.
In total, the 100 homes surveyed are spending $6 million per month on temporary staff.
Nearly half, or 44 per cent, said they are now unsure they will meet the government target of four hours of daily direct care.
"Temporary staffing agencies are an important part of the health care system and have been for a long time. Many of them act responsibly," said Levin. "But some of them do not. Those agencies are taking advantage of a staffing crisis in the sector. If government fails to take action to control exploitative agencies, there will be serious consequences. Vulnerable seniors are already receiving less care as a result, and the situation is getting worse."
A full report containing AdvantAge Ontario's prebudget recommendations is posted on the Association's website.
AdvantAge Ontario is the provincial association representing over 480 not-for-profit, charitable, municipal, and hospital-affiliated long-term care homes, seniors' housing, assisted living in supportive housing, and community service agencies.
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