OSOT Advocacy to Government re Pandemic Payment Initiative
On April 25th Premier Ford announced a new temporary Pandemic Payment to be made to "frontline staff" in recognition of the dedication, long hours, and increased risk of working to contain the COVID-19 outbreak. Occupational therapists are at the frontline of care in hospitals, long-term care homes, and in the community but, like most allied health professionals in these environments, were not specifically named as eligible workers.
While it is reasonable to assume that there need to be limits, OSOT is of the position that the current listing of eligible workers omits important professionals and workers who share roles in direct care of patients with COVID-19, including occupational therapists. We have communicated to Deputy Minister Helen Angus and Executive Lead, Ontario Health Teams, Phil Graham concern that the eligibility parameters must be applied equitably and have advocated for continued review and action to address this. View OSOT Communication April 29, 2020. We further communicated to the Premier and Minister of Health on May 14, 2020. View OSOT Communication May 14, 2020. In addition, OSOT engaged members in a letter writing campaign to advance awareness of the frontline roles of occupational therapists working with COVID-19 patients and advocating for equitable distribution of the pandemic payment. Thank you to the many, many members who put their time and passion to writing their MPP, the Premier and/or their organization to advocate for the profession. Many of your exemplars were included in OSOT's May communications to the Premier.
NEW! Government Updates Decision re Pandemic Pay - May 27, 2020
Assistant Deputy Minister, Helen Angus, communicated with health professions and associations that the Ministry of Health had made a decision relating to health care workers eligible for pandemic pay. The key message relayed is, "There is a limit to the amount of funding provided by the federal government through our agreement and after careful consideration, the government will not be expanding the pandemic pay beyond those already deemed eligible." View MOH communication.
This means that occupational therapists, other than those working in long-term care homes which were previously included, will not be included as eligible workers for pandemic pay. The Ministry of Long- Term Care confirmed on May 4, 2020 that occupational therapists working in or under contract to long-term care homes would be amongst the health workers included in Pandemic Pay Initiative. View Bulletin and See payment details.
OSOT remains of the position that this payment initiative, which was intended to "..recognize the valiant efforts of our frontline workers in the fight against COVID-19", should recognize ALL frontline workers who assume the same risks and demands in working with patients with COVID-19 and that a payment intended to recognize contribution should be applied EQUITABLY. We have heard over and over from occupational therapists working in hospitals directly with patients with COVID or presumed COVID and those visiting patients in their homes to address urgent needs assuming the risk of community spread that the proposed that the pandemic payment initiative has left them feeling unrecognized and under-valued for their meaningful contributions to Ontario's fight against COVID-19. We have communicated on behalf of occupational therapists across the province our devastated disappointment in this decision. View OSOT communication to Premier Ford and Minister Elliott, May 28, 2020,
Implications for Occupational Therapists
We understand that the Ministry of Health's decision will be devastating for many members working with COVID-19 patients in Ontario's hospitals or in the community sector. Occupational therapists working in the long-term care homes sector should monitor the Government's Pandemic Payment website for information re payment access which should be expected in early June.
We heard from many members that the most disappointing aspect of this initiative was the implied lack of recognition and under-valuing of occupational therapy services. While occupational therapists are not alone in this situation, it has been an additional stress in an already stressful and demanding time. We have heard that unintended consequences of this initiative have been strained relationships within the inter-professional teams that are so critical to excellence in care. We know this must be difficult for OTs for whom inter-professional care is paramount. Is there a way occupational therapists can assert leadership or be catalysts to rebuilding of team relationships? We know OTs are well respected for their team leadership skills. Can these be used at this time? Are there small meaningful ways that could be fostered to build recognition and celebration of every team worker's contribution to the team within an organization? There are many ways to deal with this disappointing situation. One way might be to be leaders of respectful inter-professional recognition strategies. OSOT has challenged the government to make good on a commitment to recognize all COVID-19 heroes in a meaningful way. Can we be leaders of these kinds of initiatives within our own organizations? The timing may just be right. Let us know if you have ideas or if OSOT can help!