Stop the blame game and do something to address staffing crisis
EDMONTON – Health-care workers in continuing care are calling on the Alberta government and Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw to stop blaming them and take real action to stop the spread of the virus.
“Front-line workers are tired of the finger being pointed at them for the spread of COVID-19 to care facilities, especially because of the government’s inconsistent approaches,” says Mike Dempsey, vice-president of AUPE, which represents more than 90,000 workers, including 58,000 in health care.
“At her last briefing on Monday, Dr. Hinshaw said the ‘the most common point of introduction into the facilities does tend to be staff’ and that staff can spread the virus because they can be infectious without having any symptoms,” he says.
“At the same time, Dr. Hinshaw and the government have granted several exemptions to the rule restricting staff to working at a single site during the pandemic. The government has also shortened the time that health-care workers have to isolate,” says Dempsey.
“The government is weakening its own rules for preventing the spread of this deadly disease. Dr. Hinshaw said she wanted to ensure workers were not letting ‘slip’ measures put in place in the Spring, but that is exactly what the government is doing.”
He adds: ““Yesterday, we heard that Dr. Hinshaw has asked police to step up enforcement of pandemic rules. But this government is abandoning its own rules. Albertans don’t need inconsistency from this government. They need action.”
AUPE is calling of the government to take the following steps to tackle the staffing crisis in continuing-care centres caused by so many workers being sick or isolating:
- Bring all staffing into the public sector under Alberta Health Services (AHS), so it can be more easily managed than having several operators, many of them smaller, try to cope without adequate resources. This approach has worked in. B.C.;
- Pay all staff standardized, AHS wages. This means everyone is paid fairly and no facility operator is left struggling because it pays less and staff don’t want to work there;
- Introduce mandatory isolation pay so no workers suffer financially if they have to isolate and aren’t under pressure 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.
“There are 487 infected health-care workers, up 49 from the previous report. Of those, 93 are at one site, Revera South Terrace in Edmonton, where 14 residents have died. As the second wave grows, this problem will get worse. Albertans have had enough of empty rhetoric. It is time this government took real action to solve the staffing crisis and to save lives,” says Dempsey.
Mike Dempsey is available for interviews.
For more information, contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer, 403-831-4394.