Celebrating International Women’s Day 2022
Working Women Speak Out
Sharon Teare, New Brunswick, Seniors Care
Sharon Teare is the President of the New Brunswick Council of Nursing Home Unions.
I am a nursing home worker and I represent 4,400 members of the nursing home sector. Our workers provide the essentials to the elders living in a nursing home, to ensure that they are given a quality of life with dignity and respect. This means, for instance, taking the time to ensure that they are clothed, bathed and fed, that they receive their medication and so on. If you walk into a day in the life of a nursing home worker, when you start your day, you have one individual who is providing essential care to anywhere from 10 to 12 adult seniors who have different needs. It all has to be done with very kind and compassionate caring in order to ensure residents are not agitated, to prevent aggravation or violence because that can happen sometimes.
Workers in our sector are predominantly women. Childcare continues to be a major issue, given that the majority of them are shift workers. Most of them are also single income earners. They are not compensated according to the value of the work that they do. This is a main concern for us, as well as to ensure that the resources they need to be able to do the job are accessible to them.
Nursing home workers here in New Brunswick are the lowest paid in Atlantic Canada. The working conditions, especially in recent years, have become sadly deplorable. Many people are saying that they are not staying because it is too emotionally, mentally and physically hard for what they are paid.
There is a major problem of retention and recruitment that needs to be addressed. I always say that recruiting is based on wages and benefits and retaining your staff depends on how you value the work that they do and their working conditions. Just in the last two years, through the pandemic, we have lost over 300 members, but the residents who need the care remain the same. It takes a special person to care for our seniors. The phrase I have been saying lately is that nursing home workers love to care but caring is killing them. If you are supposed to have a staffing complement per shift of eight and you are working day after day with half of that, something is being compromised somewhere. And with our sector that is predominantly female, many of the workers are being drained at work, so there is nothing left for when they get home to give any more caring to their family. At the end of the day, who is caring for those who care for our seniors?
The priority in our fight is retention and recruitment. We need to ensure that we have the staff on the front lines to be able to do the work. We need a universal plan within nursing homes from coast to coast. Each senior, regardless of their acuity, must receive the same amount of care. We need a national long-term care plan that is consistent and that has accountability. That would be a start in working on some of the issues that we are facing. There has to be an overhaul of the whole system. What we have to be mindful of is that for our seniors in nursing homes and long-term care homes, this is their home. We work in their home.
And going private is not going to fix the problem. The vast majority of the nursing homes in New Brunswick are public, but we have seen private ones pop up in the last seven years. We should not have a system that is allowed to make a profit on the backs of our seniors, with their care being compromised.
We are fighting so that the resources that are needed are put in place and we need public accountability and input from those who provide the services. Seniors deserve quality of care and a life with dignity and respect.
(Workers’ Forum, posted March 11, 2022)