Toronto, December 12, 2023 – Findings From Sector Compensation Survey Shows Widening Wage Gap Between Community Health Workers and Workers in Other Areas and Health Sectors
Ontario’s community health sector is facing a critical staffing crisis, stemming from a widening wage gap between community health care workers and health workers in other sectors. Action from the Ontario government is needed to close this gap and secure the stability of Ontario’s health care system.
The community sector is more than $2 billion behind on wages, compared to their peers doing similar work in hospitals and other sectors. This is despite the fact that community health care requires a specialized skillset due to highly complex patients often facing multiple severe and chronic conditions, often 24/7 service delivery responsibilities and obligations, and limited resources relative to hospitals.
The community health workforce encompasses a range of essential health care roles, including nurses in primary care, addiction and social workers in mental health organizations, and personal support workers in home and community care, long-term care among others. These workers ensure patients can receive the right care in the right place and help to reduce the burden on acute care settings, such as hospitals and emergency departments.
Ten Ontario community health organizations have jointly released a new report, showing that despite the rising cost of living and a competitive health care job market, community health sector staff experienced an average salary increase of only 1.53% in 2023, with some roles projecting a 0% increase. This pales in comparison to the 11% increase awarded to hospital nurses and the 8% increase for emergency medical services, further exacerbating the wage gap.
As a result, the community health sector is witnessing an exodus of workers to other fields and other provinces and countries, making it increasingly challenging to recruit and retain essential health workers. Research based on a survey of more than 1,300 community health agencies reveals that 94% of respondents identify compensation as the single most significant challenge for recruitment and retention.
While the government has committed to strengthening the community health sector, the growing wage gap threatens the system’s ability to deliver the community services Ontarians need, including primary care, home care, mental health and addictions care, and long-term care.
Without action, the foundation of our health care system is at risk, with the potential to see diminished access to essential services in the community, increased strain on already overburdened hospitals and emergency departments, elevated health care costs, and care that is too hard and slow to access for millions of individuals and their families.
The community health workforce remains steadfast in their commitment to support the wellbeing of Ontarians, but in light of the rising cost of living, a sustainable approach to addressing the wage gap is critical to ensure the continued delivery of safe and high-quality community health services. The sector is ready to work collaboratively with the government to address this urgent concern.
The full report and executive summary can be downloaded here:
“It’s time for Ontario to invest in the community health sector. Decades of underfunding have led to critical staffing shortages, increasing wage disparities, and the growing inability of our community workforce to make ends meet. We are ready to work with government to address this crisis and build an entire continuum of healthcare that supports access for all Ontarians.” Alisha Tharani, CEO, Addictions and Mental Health Ontario
“Ontario’s community health sector is facing a dual challenge of a widening wage gap leading to critical staffing shortages and rising care demands in long-term care, home care and community support services. Swift government intervention is required to stabilize our healthcare system.” Lisa Levin, CEO, AdvantAge Ontario
“Community-based primary health care organizations need to be able to meet the mounting pressures of the health human resources crisis. Healthcare providers and staff working at Alliance member organizations serve people and communities across Ontario that face some of the biggest barriers to good health and wellbeing. However, inadequate funding means their salaries continue to lag behind other parts of the health system. These wage disparities create significant challenges in retention and recruitment that may have significant impacts on service levels. We call on the Government of Ontario to develop and fund a comprehensive HHR strategy, with a focus on paying community-based healthcare providers the salary that they deserve while keeping up with inflation and cost of living.” Sarah Hobbs, CEO, Alliance for Healthier Communities
“Primary care teams in Ontario have been facing recruitment and retention issues for some time. The lack of sufficient funding to address health human resource challenges in primary care has led to significant disparities in remuneration for providers and non-clinical staff when compared to the broader health care system. Recruitment and retention issues impact the ability of primary health care organizations to deliver high-quality, timely care. The Ontario Community Health Compensation Market Salary Review report contains important data for decision makers as they aim to support recruitment and retention across Ontario’s primary health care teams. AFHTO calls on the government to urgently increase funding for health human resources in primary care to create a more equitable health care system.” Leslie Sorensen, CEO, Association of Family Health Teams of Ontario (AFHTO)
“Those who work in community-based care deserve to be paid an equivalent living wage as that of their counterparts in health and other sectors. While we appreciate the five per cent increase for community mental health care last year, the wage gap for our sector continues to grow. This needs to be immediately addressed by the government to ensure that the community health workforce can continue to provide quality care for the wellbeing of Ontarians.” – Camille Quenneville, Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario
“The health human resources crisis in Ontario’s community health sector requires immediate government action. While the government has initiated steps to address the HHR challenges, a widening wage gap and critical staffing shortages are threatening the stability of Ontario’s community mental health and addictions system. Addressing compensation gaps, coupled with a robust strategy to address the crisis, is crucial to building and sustaining a workforce that can deliver timely, accessible and high-quality mental health services.” Tatum Wilson, CEO, Children’s Mental Health Ontario
“We urge the government to act quickly to stabilize Ontario’s system of care by addressing the human resource crisis through fair compensation. Community-based services must be safeguarded to meet the needs of Ontarians today and to ensure their continuity for the benefit of future generations.” Susan Somogyi, CEO, Family Service Ontario
“Wage disparities within the indigenous community health sector have reached worrying levels, posing a significant threat to the sustainability and effectiveness of our services to our communities. The current situation impedes the recruitment and retention of skilled professionals so we must unite to call upon the government to take immediate and meaningful action to address these disparities. Our goal is to create an equitable and unbiased working environment for the dedicated individuals who devote their lives to improving the health outcomes of Indigenous communities.” Caroline Lidstone-Jones, CEO, Indigenous Primary Health Care Council
“The Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic Association respectfully urge the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health with the support of the Government of Ontario, to act and address the wage discrepancies in primary care and recognize the hard-working individuals who have been tasked to provide and coordinate care for millions of Ontarians. Primary Care sector employees are frustrated with the lack of movement in wages especially given the significant increase in both workload and cost of living; 0% over 3 years is not acceptable.” Teresa Wetselaar, Chair, Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic Association
“The wage gap between community health and other health sectors needs urgent government attention. We have over one million seniors and people with physical disabilities in home and community care alone, depending on our services, with demand increasing exponentially as our population ages. If we cannot address this wage issue, vacancies in our sector will continue to rise, resulting in higher healthcare costs and negative health outcomes for some of our most vulnerable citizens.” Deborah Simon, CEO, Ontario Community Support Association
The Ontario Community Health survey was a collaborative effort by ten provincial associations to provide insightful data for primary care and community care providers.
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