February 24, 2021, Premier Doug Ford announced an investment of $115 million to train up to 8,200 new personal support workers (PSWs) for jobs in the province’s long-term care and community care sectors. This investment is part of Ontario’s Long-Term Care Staffing Plan, which was announced in December with the objective of increasing daily direct care for long-term care residents to an average of four hours by 2024-25.
Premier Ford was joined by Minister of Long-Term Care, Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, and Minister of Colleges and Universities, Ross Romano. Following this afternoon’s announcement, Premier Ford and Dr. Fullerton responded to questions from media.
Earlier today, Chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution Task Force, General Rick Hillier (retired) provided an update on Ontario’s rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, including details on when Ontarians aged 65 and over can expect to receive their vaccine. Following this update, General Hillier responded to questions from media.
Yesterday, the Ministry of Long-Term Care approved a Voluntary Management Contract which allows The Ross Memorial Hospital to provide enhanced support to Caressant Care McLaughlin, a long-term care home in Lindsay. The arrangement will help address and stabilize the spread of COVID-19 in the home. The contract will remain in effect for 90 days, but may be extended if necessary.
Investment to Accelerate PSW Training
Today, Premier Ford, Dr. Fullerton, and Minister Romano announced an investment of $115 million to train up to 8,200 new PSWs for employment in Ontario’s long-term care and community care sectors.
Beginning in April 2021, all 24 publicly-assisted Ontario colleges will offer the Accelerated PSW Training Program. This tuition-free program will be offered for 6,000 new students, and will be delivered over the course of six months, rather than the typical eight months. Students enrolled in the program will be required to complete three months of coursework and experiential learning in a clinical setting, followed by three months of paid onsite training in either long-term care or home and community care.
Registration for the Accelerated PSW Training Program will be available beginning in March through the Ontario College Application Service.
According to Premier Ford, the investment announced today will result in the “biggest increase in PSW capacity in a generation.”
In addition, Ontario will offer $2,000 tuition grants to support the nearly 2,200 students currently enrolled in PSW training programs who are close to completing their studies. This grant is intended to help students currently enrolled in PSW training programs complete their studies, and to act as a stipend for completing the clinical placement portion of the program.
Questions from Media
Temporary Pay Raise for PSWs
In response to questions about the temporary pay raise of $3 per hour for PSWs, Premier Ford confirmed that the government would keep this wage increase in effect. He added that Ontario would do “whatever it takes” to “change the system” and make sure PSWs are paid fairly.
French Language PSW Training
Dr. Fullerton confirmed that the Accelerated PSW Training Program would be offered in French at both La Cité and Collège Boréal.
Update on COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout
Earlier, General Hillier provided an update on Ontario’s rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Phase One Completion
As Ontario begins to transition out of Phase One, and into Phase Two of its immunization campaign, the focus will remain on completing vaccinations in long-term care, retirement homes, and First Nations elder care homes. The province will also continue to focus on vaccinating patient-facing health care workers and people living in remote Indigenous communities.
Phase Two Details
Phase Two of the immunization campaign will focus on administering vaccines to older Ontarians, beginning with those aged 80 and older, who have not already been immunized in a congregate living setting. Phase Two will also target those disproportionately affected by COVID-19, as well as essential workers. A list of eligible essential workers is being developed by Cabinet.
According to General Hillier, Ontario has elected to use its 34 public health units (PHUs) as the main delivery vehicle of COVID-19 vaccines, given the expertise of PHUs in executing vaccination campaigns, and their knowledge of their local communities.
Vaccines will also be administered by pharmacies during Phase Two, beginning with a small pilot project. Once vaccines begin flowing in pharmacies, General Hillier expects between 10 and 20 per cent of vaccines to be administered in these settings. He added that this percentage will increase as more vaccines become available.
The province is also launching an online booking system, which the general public will use to make an appointment for their vaccine once eligible. This system is being tested and will be available on March 15th, when Ontarians aged 80 and up can book an appointment.
Throughout Phase Two, Ontario will keep a “small strategic allocation” of approximately 10 percent of vaccines, in order to respond to future disruptions in supply.
Vaccination Forecast: March – June
According to General Hillier, the expected timelines for beginning vaccinations of the highest-risk groups are as follows:
- Age 80 and up: third week of March
- Age 75 and up: April 15
- Age 70 and up: May 1
- Age 65 and up: June 1
Essential workers can also expect to be eligible to receive vaccinations beginning in May, pending vaccine supply.
In response to questions about expected timelines for vaccinating Ontarians in younger age groups, General Hillier said that plans will be dependent on vaccine supply. He added that he expects discussions regarding the vaccination of the general population to begin in the early summer.