B.C.’s health ministry, employers and unions are past the half-way point of a massive staff reorganization that ends part-time work for senior care aides at multiple sites, Health Minister Adrian Dix says.
Staff movement has been a source of infection outbreaks in the COVID-19 pandemic, with the earliest and deadliest senior home outbreaks in North Vancouver and Vancouver traced to part-time employees. Dix announced April 9 that the policy would be imposed province-wide, with an estimated payroll cost of $10 million a month to provide stable employment for care aides.
Dix reported April 30 that the half-way point has been reached, for a task that has reached beyond senior care homes. He said it involves 45,000 employees at long-term care, assisted living, private hospitals and mental health facilities.
“Of those 45,000 employees, there are or were 7,350 employees who had jobs at multiple facilities,” Dix said, adding that there are 545 facilities that host multi-facility employees in all of B.C.’s regional health authorities.
So far 276 of those facilities have implemented their “single-site plan” for employees, Dix said, 43 in Interior Health, 40 in Fraser Health, 103 in Vancouver Coastal Health, 64 in Island Health and 26 in Northern Health.
Quebec has followed B.C.’s lead in stabilizing staff after a crisis in senior care homes, with novel coronavirus infections in more than 500 of them and some abandoned by staff. Canadian Armed Forces personnel have been called in to do cleaning and other jobs at Quebec care facilities.
Doctors, nurses, pharmacists and lab technicians continue to be allowed to work in multiple facilities, which have increased cleaning and sharply restricted visitors to prevent further infections among high-risk residents and patients.
Dix and Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie have pushed for improved working conditions for care aides, where there was a chronic shortage of skilled help before the coronavirus pandemic.
In B.C., the changes are being made “within the existing blended service delivery model of health-authority owned and operated, affiliates and private providers,” accommodating employee preferences in where they work as far as possible, Dix said April 9. “And it ensures that all of them receive an equitable wage and scheduling stability so they can work at a single site without financial hardship or patient service disruption.”