Existing pilot program could alleviate pressure on long-term care staffing

  • August 19, 2020

More than 80 per cent of the COVID-19 deaths in Canada up to late May happened in retirement homes and long-term care facilities, public and private. Reports before the pandemic talked about long-standing critical labour shortages, leading to workers leaving the field because they were overworked, underpaid, and burning out. These issues were only exacerbated by the restrictions put in place when COVID-19 hit.

It turns out the federal government already has a program in place that, with a few modifications, could help alleviate those shortages.

In June 2019 the Immigration Department launched its Home Child Care Provider and Home Support Worker pilot programs, a two-step program open to foreign nationals already working in Canada and to applicants abroad who meet the criteria.

The Immigration Section believes that with a few modifications the HSW pilot could help to fill the labour gap in these facilities before the expected second wave of infections, which could very likely be aggravated by the seasonal flu.

The recommendations include processing applications in 90 days instead of the 12-18 months envisioned in the original program and waiving the requirement for the Educational Credential Assessment report to be submitted with the permanent residence application at the approval-in-principle stage. All applicants must provide biometrics, however collection centres abroad may have limited capacity due to COVID-19, and this requirement can result in months of delays. The Section recommends allowing HSW pilot applicants to provide biometrics on arrival in Canada, or waiving the requirement until after the approval-in-principle stage.

The Section also recommends expanding the definition of “eligible occupations” under the pilot – currently limited to people who provide certain services in private homes – to include home support workers who work in long-term care facilities and retirement homes.

“The HSW Pilot is well-positioned to address the critical shortages for personal support workers for elderly and vulnerable Canadians, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic,” the Section says. The work experience of HSW Pilot applicants should be recognized regardless of where the recipients of care are living. Our recommendations would expedite the AIP process, result in faster issuance of work permits, and enable HSW Pilot applicants to alleviate shortages of personal support workers in Canada sooner – in both institutional and private settings.”

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