'I’m basically at the mercy of caregivers': Timmins PSW shortage devastating for those in need
Two women in Timmins are sharing their experiences they've had while trying to access home care services. Tina Kapel (pictured) and Velma Kauhala both struggle with missed appointments on a regular basis and say the time is never made up. That means they can go without being fed or bathed at the times they need it most. Health officials point to the shortage of workers. (Lydia Chubak/CTV News)
TIMMINS -- Two women in Timmins who require regular home care services say their quality of life has been severely impacted by the personal support worker shortage.
They say they can't feed or wash themselves without help and often workers don't show up.
Tina Kapel is a home care client who lives with a neurological condition.
"I’m basically at the mercy of caregivers," said Kapel. "I can’t drive a car, I have a hard time using a computer or iPad or a phone. It’s very difficult so I need care with everything."
She lives with her elderly parents and is entitled to a little less than 15 hours a week of personal support care from Care Partners. But getting that care has been a struggle.
"It's like they cut my hours in half 'cause they don't have any staff," Kapel said. "They call and say they're still looking for someone meanwhile you know they're looking for no one 'cause this is no one."
Kapel said the quality of care has been good for the most part, but there is a serious issue with scheduling and she said it started before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Care Partner officials declined to conduct an interview with CTV News about the allegations, but responded with the following statement, signed by Holly Curtis, communications manager for Care Partners:
"If a patient or their family expresses dissatisfaction in any way, we take these issues very seriously and follow a rigorous protocol for investigation and resolution. Our general experience is not that our frontline employees fail to show up to work without notification ... Regrettably we do experience missed appointments occasionally, and there are several contributing factors. Sometimes our patients have very specific preferences that make providing care a challenge ... In areas where the availability of PSWs is scarce, we don’t always have the option of rescheduling service for the same timeframe."
Velma Kauhala is also a client requiring care at home. She lives with rheumatoid arthritis and can't cook, bathe or dress without help. Kauhala said when she was paying for rent and care at Access Better Living, a local residence in Timmins, she said she endured four months without help from Access Better Living.
Kauhala told CTV News she was grateful for some help she did receive during that time that was organized by the North East Local Health Integration Network, but said she has yet to be reimbursed for services not rendered at Access Better Living.
Officials at Access Better Living declined comment.
"Get the ones who run the places so poorly out of their positions," said Kauhala.
She has since moved out of that residence and now lives on her own, but struggles with missed appointments through Care Partners.
"There are times that I just have nothing, absolutely nothing," Kauhala said.
The Northeast LHIN, which oversees home and community care, also declined to comment on the specific cases, but in an email signed by North East LHIN Media Team said:
"The LHIN monitors missed visits and other performance indicators with these service provider organizations. If a service provider organization’s personal support worker or nurse do not show up for a visit, then the organization is not paid for the visit. Currently in the North East, there is a shortage of healthcare workers, which is having an impact on the delivery of home care to people in the region."
For clients like Kapel, the impact is overwhelming. She said her situation is being taken less seriously because she lives with her parents, who are in their late 70s.
"Nobody says anything, nobody cares," she said.