Unifor president says COVID-19 a 'wake-up call' for working conditions in long-term care homes
OTTAWA -- COVID-19 has affected some long-term care homes dramatically.
Jane Cierpicki’s 91-year-old mother, Ethel Proulx is a resident at Laurier Manor in Ottawa, where 35 residents and 13 staff have tested positive for the virus.
“I think the staff is pretty scared, and they’re exhausted,” says Cierpicki. She’s worried about her mom’s health deteriorating.
“Our mom is in a wheelchair, so she spent the day in bed - which creates other stress for us for things like bed sores; and for mom, with her dementia, if she doesn’t have the proper stimulation, it just sends her deep and deeper into her dementia.”
Cierpicki hasn’t been able to see her mother in person since March, “this week she tested positive for COVID-19.”
Cierpicki is not being critical of the care her mother has received at Laurier Manor, but is concerned that the pandemic has added even more pressure on the staff.
“This problem didn’t just start now, I’m vice-chair of the family council and we’ve been fighting this problem for a while. The province has not been getting the proper amount of staff, they’ve been working short-staffed for a while. Now this has just blown it up and it’s shown how badly our most vulnerable people need help.”
In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Cory Nezanl, Regional Director for Extendicare - the company that operates the home, says “all COVID-19 positive residents are being cared for on a single floor at the home and two residents have been transferred to hospital.”
Nezanl says they are in the process of hiring more staff.
“We have also hired 10 new staff from a recent recruitment drive and have more candidates in the interview process to support our front-line team… Ottawa Hospital has also provided the support of registered nurses since Sunday.”
Unifor president Jerry Dias tells CTV News Ottawa that “It’s our parents we’re talking about, it’s our grandparents - they deserve to live the rest of their lives in dignity.”
The union represents over 16,000 members who work in long-term care homes across the country.
“These workers are working in horrendous conditions for minimum wage and low pay at best. This has to be a wake up call for everyone.”
Dias also says many personal support workers that work in long-term care homes are limited to part-time hours, forcing them to work at multiple facilities.
Ontario has restricted anyone that works in a long-term care facility to work at only one to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“Was it a good decision to limit to one home? The answer is yes, to control the spread - but we’re short to start with,” said Dias.
The six-minute challenge:
Dias says that high staff/resident ratios in long-term care homes are to blame for the reduced care residents are currently receiving.
“If everybody is at work, it’s usually one personal support worker for twelve residents.”
Which, according to Dias, results in the average worker having only six minutes to get a resident out of bed, wash, brush their teeth, and get them dressed for breakfast.
He wants everyone to think if they could get their own morning routine down to just six minutes,
“My challenge to Canadians is to try and do the work of a PSW yourself. You have six minutes - six minutes to get yourself out of bed, hop in the shower, shave, use the toilet, and then get to the breakfast table. See how much you get done in six minutes, because that’s what the PSW is doing with our seniors”