UFCW 1518 is calling on Interior Health to re-examine its decision of reducing care times and to change its scheduling program to ensure home support workers can provide the critical care that clients need.
After reading an article published on Kamloops This Week about Carrie McAstocker, a 59-year old quadriplegic woman who missed home support visits to help her get to bed and prepare her meals, UFCW 1518 members are angry, but not surprised. These are the types of stories that have been shared by UFCW 1518 members to Interior Health in the hopes that changes can be made to ensure clients get the proper care they need.
However, no action has been taken; instead, changes to home support workers’ schedules have exacerbated this issue.
Kamloops-based Union Representative, Ed Cabral, describes how Interior Health has worsened conditions of health care shortages and has made the work less appealing for home support workers. “There is very little to almost no full-time work for home support workers at Interior Health and it has implemented a new change in scheduling. Part-time home support workers used to have set days where they are able to take on additional part-time work during their off days, which gives them the ability to make ends meet. With the new rotating schedules, workers no longer have set days, so they are unable to take on another job.”
To make matters worse, many home support workers who are predominately women of colour are struggling to find childcare to ensure their own children are being looked after while they work. “Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of daycare centres that can accommodate rotating schedules.” Ed Cabral adds, “So once again, these workers are burdened with trying to figure out how to make ends meet while trying to find the support they need for their own kids.”
Meeting the needs of clients has been challenging as the province deals with health care worker shortages. Many workers who have taken on the burden from these shortages have expressed feeling burnt out and underappreciated.
Care times have also been reduced for each client, causing a decline in care. Home support workers are puzzled as to how Interior Health came up with the decision to reduce care times considering the work involved has not changed. With shorter care times, home support workers are rushing, which can lead to hazards and risks for both clients and workers.
“Home support work used to be a good, respected job. I’ve been at this job for years. Now, many don’t want to stay at this job,” (name withheld) a home support worker stated.
Interior Health has the ability to change the allotment of care times and its scheduling program. While Vancouver Island Health Authority has the same staff shortage and scheduling issues of its own, home support workers within that jurisdiction do not have to deal with rotational scheduling.
UFCW 1518’s request is not just for home support workers; this request ensures that clients, like Carrie McAstocker, receive the proper care they need, especially at a time when people are dealing with a brutal heat wave. As explained by a UFCW 1518 member, Interior Health “needs to be client-centred, not Interior Health-centred.”
By listening and working with its employees, Interior Health has the opportunity to create a workplace where it can retain home support workers who are passionate about their jobs. And with the shortage of health care workers across the province, it would be unwise not to.
You can read UFCW 1518’s letter to Interior Health here.