Ontario non-profit LTCs want government to limit temp agency fees

One home charging $150 per hour for registered nurses – 249 per cent above typical rate

Ontario non-profit LTCs want government to limit temp agency fees

The association representing a majority of Ontario's not-for-profit and municipal long-term care homes is calling on the provincial government to implement a framework that would limit what agencies can charge and what extra charges are reasonable.

Such a move would bring accountability to a situation where homes might no longer be able to provide adequate care because they can't afford to pay wages at rates similar to that offered by agencies, according to AdvantAge.

The call comes following a study that reveals that one agency is charging homes as much as $150 per hour for a registered nurse — 249 per cent more than the typical rate, reports CBC. 

Meanwhile, non-profit homes continue to lose staff to agencies as they have been unable to raise salaries significantly due to Bill 124, says Steven Harrison, CEO of Tri-County Mennonite Homes, which runs homes in Stratford and the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

"People are tired; there is no reprieve right now for anyone on the front line and resiliency is starting to wane," he says in the CBC report. "What [the agencies] are doing is taking advantage of a very desperate situation in the health-care sphere."

Bill 124 has capped salary increases for nurses and other public sector workers at one per cent annually since 2019.

Meanwhile, the overall health-care workforce has put it in extra work regularly – but not all of it is being compensated: they averaged 8.2 hours per week of paid overtime and 5.8 hours per week of unpaid overtime, according to a previous report.

On the other hand, agency health care workers were performing about seven per cent of the work in the last six months of 2022, but were receiving more than 16 per cent of the wages in long-term care homes, finds AdvantAge's survey, according to a CBC report.

Losing personnel

The current situation is also pushing Ontario health-care staffers, including nurses, personal support workers and others, away from public employment. They are joining agencies that promise, "You don't need to work as long or as hard with as much commitment and we can get you more money to do basically the same work," says Harrison.

Overall, 75 per cent of nurses and 69 per cent of doctors intend to leave the industry in the next 12 months, according to a previous report.

Harrison’s Tri-County Mennonite Homes are projected to spend more than $3 million on agency workers in the fiscal year ending March 31. That’s a huge jump from the nearly $150,000 they spent the year before the pandemic. They had originally budgeted to spend just under $300,000 this fiscal year.

"These are taxpayers' dollars that we are funded with and they are being… squandered in a manner that was never anticipated when the dollars were being allocated to us to deliver this care," Harrison says.

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