Today, Tuesday, April 27, the Ontario government introduced legislation that, if passed, will help strengthen Ontario’s health care workforce and support the delivery of high-quality care by regulating personal support workers, physician assistants and behaviour analysts. This legislation would also enhance the province’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic by promoting the timely reporting of COVID-19 vaccine data to the Ministry of Health. The proposed legislation is part of the government’s commitment to build a more connected, patient-centred health care system.
“The health and well-being of all Ontarians has always been our government’s top priority, and we are committed to ensuring our health care workforce has the supports and resources they need to keep Ontarians safe and healthy,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “The proposed legislation recognizes the important work of personal support workers, physician assistants and behaviour analysts in delivering high-quality care to Ontarians each day, especially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The Advancing Oversight and Planning in Ontario’s Health System Act, 2021, would, if passed, further recognize the important role of select health and supportive care staff in delivering high-quality care to patients across the province. Specifically, the legislation would:
- Establish a new legislative framework to support greater uniformity of education and training standards for personal support workers and would build on their capacity to provide care services to the most vulnerable Ontarians, including children, older adults and people with disabilities;
- Regulate physician assistants as new members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, to improve their integration within Ontario’s health care system and facilitate quality of care and patient safety;
- Regulate behaviour analysts as a new profession under the College of Psychologists of Ontario, to sustain the quality and safety of care provided to Ontarians;
- Support timely reporting to the ministry of all relevant data from COVID-19 vaccination sites, including voluntary socio-demographic information.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, personal support workers (PSWs) have worked tirelessly to keep Ontarians safe and healthy. As PSWs continue to play a greater role in Ontario’s health system, the proposed legislation would establish a new legislative framework that supports consistency in education, training and standards of practice for the province’s personal support workforce, regardless of work setting or employment type.
“Health care workers go above and beyond every day to ensure our loved ones receive the care they need and deserve,” said Dr. Merrilee Fullerton, Minister of Long-Term Care. “Personal support workers are the backbone of long-term care. This proposed legislation is another way for us to recognize their contribution and foster an environment that supports their personal and professional aspirations.”
A new oversight body, called the Health and Supportive Care Providers Oversight Authority would be established for the registration of PSWs and would have defined roles, responsibilities and accountabilities. Further details will be set out in regulation following extensive consultation with the sector.
“Individuals and families deserve to have confidence in their service providers and know that their loved ones are getting high-quality care,” said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. “Those who rely on personal support workers deserve peace of mind knowing their choice is protected through oversight and established standards of care.”
The proposed legislation builds on the Ontario government’s ongoing efforts to support Ontario’s health and supportive care workforce, including investing $700 million in temporary wage enhancements and over $115 million to support a historic accelerated training program for personal support workers.
- Personal support workers provide a wide range of services in home and community care, working with children, seniors and Ontarians with disabilities.
- Through the COVID-19 Fall Preparedness Plan, the government invested $52.5 million to recruit, retain and support over 3,700 more frontline health care workers and caregivers. It is one of the largest health care recruiting and training programs in Ontario’s history. To date, more than 600 personal support workers, 500 nurses and 130 supportive care workers have been added across the province.
- The government is investing up to $1.9 billion annually by 2024-25, or $4.9 billion over the next four years, to create more than 27,000 new positions for personal support workers, registered nurses and registered practical nurses in long-term care to meet the direct care commitment; in addition, providing a 20 per cent increase in direct care time administered by other health care professionals such as physiotherapists and social workers.
- Under the proposed legislation, to reflect the role of physician assistants as extensions of physicians, services offered by physician assistants could include communicating a diagnosis, identifying a disease, casting a fracture, prescribing medication, eyeglasses or hearing aid and treating behavioural dysregulation.
- Behaviour analysts provide applied behaviour analysis therapy to help a range of Ontarians. Clinicians often help people on the autism spectrum to develop new life skills, communications skills and social skills. Behaviour analysts may also work with people with dementia, developmental disabilities, acquired brain injuries, and psychological and psychiatric disorders.