The Quebec government says it wants to pay people to become home-care workers — and speed up the training process.
The goal of the new program, announced Tuesday with registration beginning immediately, is to train 1,000 new home-care workers by fall of this year.
The government said attracting more workers is a step toward bolstering home-care services and reducing reliance on private agencies.
The plan also aligns with the government's commitment to shifting toward caring for people at home instead of in hospitals or residences.
"Quebecers want to be cared for at home for as long and as often as possible," said Health Minister Christian Dubé in the release.
"We are moving forward with the major principles of our health plan, namely to make a major shift toward home care and to continue recruiting human resources in our public health and social services network."
Under the new plan, students would receive $12,000 in grants and enrol in a 705-hour training program over five months, compared with 870 hours for regular training.
The money would be paid out in three $4,000 instalments and be contingent on a six-month commitment to work in the health system.
In addition to financial support, future graduates are guaranteed a job as soon as they receive their certification.
Registration opened Tuesday and classes will begin in the coming weeks in various training centres across Quebec.
This latest accelerated training program follows another launched last May, which saw 3,000 orderlies trained to work in the province's long-term care homes and both public and private seniors' residences.
Staffing shortage an issue
Last month, Quebec's Health and Welfare Commissioner published a report with 16 recommendations to improve the province's home-care network, which, according to Joanne Castonguay, does not address the needs of an aging population.
The staffing shortage was found to be part of the problem. Ruth Pelletier, founder of Seniors Action Quebec, has encountered that problem firsthand.
"It took them a while to find somebody who could come in a couple times a month and give me two hours each time because they just didn't have the staff — not that they didn't want to," she said.
Pelletier wants people to take advantage of the government's new fast-track training program, but above all, she hopes the program is thorough and that students are trained to deal with seniors' complex physical and cognitive needs.
"If you're not trained to be sensitive to those needs and have some compassion … that's where we get into a dicey situation," she said.
"We have to be patient and extremely understanding."
Shorter program is too short, says health union
Guillaume Clavette, representative for paratechnical staff, auxiliary services and trades at the Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS-CSN), says the government's motivation to attract more home-care workers is a good thing, but the shorter training program is too short.
"We're shifting the responsibility of fine-tuning the tasks to the staff already in place, who must make up for these employees who lack training," he said.
Clavette says the government is "cutting corners once again" instead of investing in better working conditions and better salaries to make home care more attractive for prospective employees.
Anne-Sophie Schlader, executive director of Nova Soins à domicile, a home health-care service in Westmount, says the government must ensure that quality of care remains the top priority.
"We need some level of transparency on the information, on the content that will be cut from the usual training," she said, suggesting that training be ongoing for new home-care workers on the ground.