AUPE will monitor to ensure facilities follow AHS pandemic guidelines
EDMONTON – Continuing-care facilities across Alberta have been warned to follow Alberta Health Service (AHS) pandemic guidelines to the letter or face consequences.
“We’ve been hearing alarming reports from our members who work in some of these facilities that important safety procedures are not being followed,” says Mike Dempsey, vice-president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), which represents more than 95,000 workers.
“This means the health and safety of residents and workers is being unnecessarily put at risk. Continuing-care facilities are known to be hot-spots for COVID-19. Albertans cannot afford to see corners being cut here,” he says.
AUPE today (Wednesday, April 1) wrote to 35 employers advising them that the union expects them all to follow the practices set down by AHS. If they fail to do so, the letter says “we will have no choice but to use all avenues available to us to enforce them.”
The pandemic procedures include providing workers in continuing care with the same Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) workers in acute care use. “The risk is the same. The equipment and procedures must be the same, too,” says Dempsey. “If the workers get sick, residents will get sick – often with fatal results.”
Concerns raised by members include not having access to appropriate PPE and poor messaging from employers about when PPE is required. Some members have also expressed concern about the quality of PPE. “At one facility, our members were told to wear a dust mask – the kind you wear when you’re doing carpentry. That is not appropriate for a health-care setting,” says Dempsey.
“AUPE would like to thank those facilities who are doing the right things, but we asked some union leaders at privately operated facilities about conditions and about one-third said there wasn’t enough protective equipment and the equipment was a lower quality than other facilities used.
“About one third also said their employer was not providing adequate information, guidance and support on how to cope with the pandemic. Nearly half said they did not feel safe at work and that they were working short of staff,” he says.
“AUPE is assigning more staff to Occupational Health and Safety duties to monitor what’s happening at continuing-care facilities where our members work. We’ll be watching for infractions.”
AUPE vice-president Mike Dempsey is available for interviews. Please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, Communications, 403-831-4394.