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87% of PSWs and RPNs at Toronto-run long-term care homes experience violence

Staff at the City of Toronto ten, long-term care homes– particularly racialized workers – experience a high level of violence, abuse and harassment, a newly released poll of front-line long-term care workers has found.

The poll is the first time that CUPE Local 79 has surveyed its long-term care members – the vast majority of whom are female – on their experiences with workplace violence based on job roles and gender within long‐term care.
While Toronto municipal long-term care homes are among the sector leaders when it comes to resident care quality, the poll findings show they are not immune to high rates of abuse directed by residents or their family members against front-line staff. The poll also shows the frequency of violence is under-reported because only a fraction of them ever file incident reports for the violence.
87% of personal support workers (PSWs) and 77% of registered practical nurses (RPNs) responding to the poll said they had experienced physical violence from residents or family members. But only 49% of PSWs and 35% of RPNs file reports documenting the violence. Another key finding of the Toronto poll is that 74% of all respondents who identified as indigenous, racialized, recent immigrant or visible minority, experienced related harassment or abuse. 31% of them said they experience racial or cultural-related violence or abuse at least once a week. 16% report this happening to them each day.

Next week, Toronto council will consider a motion to implement a strategy to strengthen ‘emotion-centered’ resident care and phase in a multi-year hiring and staffing plan to deal with the rising acuity and complex care needs of long-term care home residents.
“It’s imperative that the findings of this poll are given serious consideration now that city administrators are reviewing how to improve care and staffing at our Toronto homes,” says CUPE Local 79 president David Mitchell. “In addition to the overall high rate of violence experienced by PSWs and RPNs, the fact that so many staff who are experiencing abuse attribute it directly to their race should be extremely concerning for administrators.”
Experiencing violence also has debilitating after effects for PSWs. On most days, 73% of PSWs polled said they experience a high level of anxiety, depression and emotional exhaustion related to conditions at work. In the past year, 59% of PSWs and 55% of RPNs have considered quitting their jobs because of stress or violence. 91% of all respondents believe additional staffing would help to prevent violence, while only 35% of all respondents feel residents are receiving adequate care given the current workload and staffing levels.
A peer-reviewed investigative study of Ontario long-term care home workers titled, “Breaking Point: Violence Against Long-term Care Staff,” by Canadian researchers, Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith (University of Windsor and the University of Stirling in the UK), backs up the poll findings. Using in-depth interviews, the researchers heard story after story from long-term care staff about how they have been kicked, punched, bloodied and broken, both physically and psychologically.
“The poll findings and study conclusions clearly show that, in a sector largely staffed by women where the work is based on compassion and care, the staff themselves are expected to tolerate an environment in which physical, verbal, racial and sexual aggression are rampant. Adding to their burden is the implicit threat that they will be disciplined or fired if they speak publicly about these abuses,” says Dr. Keith.
On April 9, 2019 — Local 79 and OCHU held a press conference at City Hall to announce the results of this study. Local 79 President Dave Mitchell was joined by Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith,  Personal Support Worker Rosemarie Harrison, and Toronto’s Seniors Advocate: Councillor Josh Matlow. Watch their presentations below.

Violence in Long-Term Care – Local 79 President Dave Mitchell

Violence in Long-Term Care – Dr. James Brophy and Dr. Margaret Keith

Violence in Long-Term Care – Personal Support Worker Rosemarie Harrison

Violence in Long-Term Care – Councillor Josh Matlow, Toronto’s Seniors Advocate


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