UPDATE: Cornwall mom, whose son was abused, wants more regulation for PSWs

UPDATE: Cornwall mom, whose son was abused, wants more regulation for PSWs

CORNWALL, Ontario – The Cornwall mother of a man who was abused while in long-term care wants more regulation for personal support workers who look after her son and others – including seniors – on a daily basis.

Joy Seguin said her son Andre, who has autism and developmental delays, was abused 10 years ago while under the care of personal support workers, also known as PSWs.

Criminal charges were filed and a conviction was entered in the case involving Seguin’s son – but the guilty party has since had their record expunged.

Her son has been properly cared for since, for the most part, but Seguin is advocating that more regulation is required for PSWs in Ontario, including a registry for those convicted of abusing clients.

“There is a need to raise the standards – absolutely,” she said in an interview. “The PSWs…there’s a lot phenomenal people. But we need more people doing the right thing.

“If there’s abuse or neglect most doctors and nurses are covered by a college. And incidents are reported on a registry. With PSWs that is not the case. Any incidents of abuse or neglect are not (listed).”

Because of that, Seguin argues too many employers may not know they have retained an individual with a track record of abusing clients.

So, she has begun circulating a petition, calling on the provincial government to do more to regulate PSWs. She has more than 400 signatures so far.

“People must start speaking up. People have to make some noise,” said Seguin.

Changes in the law implemented to prevent things like elder abuse mandate that anyone who sees or knows of abuse must report it. A person who knows of ongoing abuse and does not report it can face the loss of their own job or other consequences.

But there is still no requirement that PSWs must have a criminal background check completed when applying for work, though many employers request such information – including colleges that offer PSW schooling.

Seguin said her son’s abuser, and others who have been convicted, can slip through the cracks.

“They got their hand sort of slapped. Their record was expunged, and no one was the wiser,” she said.

Nearly 80,000 Ontarians live in long-term care homes. CTV News reported last year that in southern Ontario alone there were 1,500 abuse cases reported between July 2010 and December 2013 – with hundreds more likely going unreported.

A 2006 report to the Ministry of Health advocates against regulating PSWs, in part because there was no professional association representing the workers at the time.

Since then the Ontario Personal Support Worker Association (OPSWA) has created a standards of practice for everything from Alzheimer care, to shaving and tube feeding.

Association president Miranda Ferrier saidher group would welcome more regulation for PSWs.

“I would have no problem putting the names of people (who have commited abuse) on our website for all to see,” she said, adding the OPSWA wants to be the governing body for regulating PSWs.

But the province is arguing it is a conflict of interest to have PSWs policing PSWs.

No way, said Ferrier.

“Look at the nurses and the doctors,” she added, pointing to colleges of nurses and doctors that rule upon infractions commited by their members.

Seguin takes it a step further, and suggests more training be provided to PSWs, and more money from the province offered to fund long-term care facilities that often go with bare-bones staff – which can lead to a backlog of clients looking for help to roll over in bed, go to the washroom or eat.

“We’ve got to help these front-line workers…and telling the ministry we need that support,” she said.

Her petition can be found online here, and it is being circulated throughout the community.

She will be in attendance at Ribfest in a couple of weeks in Lamoureux Park, soliciting support for her petition.

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