In the News April 28
April 28 Day of Mourning
Luz Jones, Long-Term Care Worker
Luz Jones is a Licenced Practical Nurse, a member of Women for Rights and Empowerment, an executive member of CUPE Local 474 who has worked in long-term care for 35 years.
The most urgent need we long-term care workers have is for the staffing levels needed so that we can care for residents with all the respect and dignity that is their right. This includes replacing all staff who are off sick or for other reasons. We have been calling for staff/patient ratios for more than 20 years, but we have been ignored. We are exhausted trying to care for our residents. It impacts our health as well, and many people are leaving.
We also need full-time permanent jobs. Before the pandemic, many workers used to work two or three jobs to make ends meet, because of the low wages and lack of full-time jobs. With the pandemic, workers had to choose one site where they would work. But instead of replacing them with full-time workers at their other sites, the employers used contracted agencies to provide staff. Every day residents would see different staff who did not know them, did not know their needs, and of course this made the one-site policy a joke. The residents felt very confused with seeing different faces every day, instead of permanent, stable staff and can get very agitated and can have more problem behaviours, including violence towards staff. It makes life more difficult for both staff and residents. The regular staff end up doing a double job, constantly training a revolving door of staff, plus our regular work. The managers don’t think about that. They only say the job has to be done. Really we are not treated as human beings.
It is the same when staff are moved around from one unit to another because of short-staffing. It’s unsafe for the residents when staff don’t know them, and it is very stressful for staff. For example, some people need medication only with water, others with food. Sometimes there are residents who are violent. With other people you need two staff to work with them.
Management love to talk about person-centered care, but that’s not it. You have to do the job so fast, you have no time to find out how the people you care for are feeling, how they are doing. The workload is not sustainable. When you can’t stop for a second to catch your breath, these are inhuman working conditions, and many people are just leaving.
Training is important for our well-being and for the residents as well. Management is supposed to have in-services to train staff, especially the new staff, how to be kind and compassionate with residents, what the job is, what the expectations are for the resident. A lot of places stopped training during the pandemic and instead require workers to do online modules on their own time with no compensation. Or if you are paid, it will be for only one hour, not the three hour minimum required in the collective agreement. Now we are having to demand in negotiations that training be paid.
It took a long time but through our own efforts we do now have the personal protective equipment we need in long-term care. But now government is acting as though the pandemic is over, even though there are currently more than 200 outbreaks in long-term care and supportive living. They are determined to push their privatization agenda forward as if all these deaths in long term care, the whole failure to care for our seniors and people with disabilities never happened, and now it is full steam ahead to hand over more public funds for private profit. For example where one of the worst outbreaks took place, the only thing they did was move all the really sick residents to one area, but there were still two to four to a room, not the isolation needed. At least 60 residents died.
Management thinks they know what needs to be done, but they are not the ones actually looking after residents 24/7. Many times we tell management, “we tried the way you said, but it doesn’t work.” The workers have many ideas and proposals about how to run the long-term care homes. They know what is good and bad, what is needed and what we have been advocating for many years. So we need a real say in how to make the improvements needed.
It’s time for the workers to organize themselves in each area where they work. We have employee management advisory committees where we can bring things like broken machines, things like that. But we have to organize ourselves to fight for and achieve our demands.
Residents and their families also need a say. Why not have committees where the staff could meet with residents and their families, where everyone could discuss the situation, not individual problems, but the whole picture, and then put forward our concerns and demands? We want real human-centred care, not words, and the working conditions necessary so we can provide the care our residents have a right to receive.
Workers’ Forum, posted April 28, 2022.