AUPE Media Release: UCP refuses to tackle health-care staffing crisis
EDMONTON – The number of continuing-care sites given exemptions to the life-saving single-site rule has nearly tripled, according to Alberta Health Services (AHS).
“We warned that this was about to happen,” says Susan Slade, vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which stands over 90,000 members strong, including 58,000 in health care. “We sounded the alarm nine days ago, and instead of fixing the problem the government made it worse.”
The single-site rule was introduced by Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw in April to prevent the spread of COVID-19 between continuing-care facilities. It restricted workers to employment at one site during the pandemic, rather than have them continue to work second or third jobs and risk taking the virus from one facility to another.
“That rule was implemented to save lives. We revealed last week that it was being abandoned and that this would put vulnerable Albertans at risk. We showed that on Nov. 4, exemptions had been given at nine sites. Two weeks later, there are exemptions at 25 sites,” says Slade.
“This figure will continue to soar, and with it the risk to Albertans living and working in continuing care centres. Dr. Hinshaw herself said that working at multiple sites was a bad idea that could cost lives, but now it’s the only solution being offered to a staffing crisis.”
The shortage of workers is caused by staff getting sick or having to isolate because they have been exposed to the virus. There are currently 468 health-care workers with active cases. A total of 3,367 have been infected since the pandemic began.
“The government must admit its failure. We need more health-care workers, not to move the limited number of workers we have between facilities and have them get infected and spread the virus,” says Slade.
AUPE is calling for the government to:
- Bring all continuing care staffing into the public sector under Alberta Health Services (AHS), to help prevent private and non-profit sites from succumbing to COVID. This approach has worked in. B.C.;
- Pay all staff standardized, AHS wages. Health care heroes should be paid fairly, and fair wages would mean private providers who normally pay less would give incentive for staff to keep working;
- Introduce mandatory isolation pay. No one should suffer financially if they have to isolate, and shouldn’t feel pressured to return to work when staying home would be safer; and
- Enforce the part of the single-site rules that require employers to offer extra shifts and overtime to workers who have given up second and third jobs so they do not suffer financially.
“The way to attract more workers is pay them fair wages for the work they do and treat them with respect, not threaten their jobs and tell them they are overpaid while they risk their lives to care for others,” says Slade.
“We may also need to look at getting help from the Canadian Armed Forces or the Red Cross. We just hope UCP egos don’t prevent them from seeking help to save the lives of Albertans.”
Susan Slade is available for interviews.
Please contact Alexander Delorme, AUPE Communications Officer: 780-264-9274