A new radio ad campaign is talking about a growing problem in our home care system: reduced task time.
Winnipeg (27 Jan. 2014) – For two weeks starting January 27, radio ads throughout the province will draw attention to a growing problem in our home care system: too often, workers are left rushing through their tasks and from client to client to get through their daily schedule.
Radio ads highlight lack of time for workers to care for clients
“Over the past two or three years, we’ve continually heard from our members that the amount of time they are given to perform a particular task for a client, like prepare, serve, and clean up a meal, or to get from Client A and Client B, has been reduced,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky.
“Many tell us that because of tight scheduling, they are rushing like never before to give frail and elderly clients a bath. They’re stressed about having to get a disabled client dressed, or use the toilet, in too little time. And the clients feel this stress, this rushing, and it’s terribly hard on them. Workers are telling us they can no longer stop, just for a moment, and double-check that their client is okay. They can’t always make sure the dishes are all washed, that supplies are put back where they belong,” Gawronsky said.
Workers take on more clients but no time to get to them safely
Inadequate travel time was also identified as a major issue. Workers, both in the city and in rural areas, say they’re finding themselves speeding between appointments. When nasty winter weather hits, they are often left running so late that their day is over before they’ve seen their last client.
The issue emerged upwards of three years ago, when the union began working with the employer to phase in equivalent full-time (EFT) positions.
Tight scheduling impacts on both workers and client care
Previously, home care workers were “casual employees” who rarely knew how many hours they might get in any given week, making it next to impossible to get a simple bank loan. The shift to equivalent full-time staff (EFT) has been gradually rectifying this problem, and ultimately, building a more stable workforce.
“But as we were working with the employer to roll out EFTs area by area, the employer also began implementing what’s known as minimum guidelines for scheduling,” Gawronsky said. “In many cases, these new guidelines drastically cut the amount of time a worker is given to care for their client. For instance, instead of 45 minutes to prepare a client’s bath, bathe them, dress them, and generally get them ready to face the day, workers now have 20 minutes. This is simply not enough time to gently and respectfully assist a frail or disabled Manitoban with something as important and as personal as a bath.”
Members began flagging this problem from the outset. In response, the union repeatedly went to the employer to rectify such tight scheduling.
“It seemed obvious to us that this rushing is putting both our workers and their clients at risk,” Gawronsky said. “ But so far we’ve been unsuccessful in getting the RHAs to implement any kind of workable solution.”
The radio ads are meant to ensure the public is aware of how and why home care services aren’t what they could be or should be.
“Our members do this job because they care about people,” Gawronsky said. “They just want to put the “care” back in home care.
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The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE