#12 Health employers get staffing level reality check from the front line

Bargaining bulletin

Health employers had their eyes opened to the consequences of short-staffing as a result of moving presentations by HEU members at the bargaining table this week.

The front-line reality faced by long-term and community care aides, and trades/maintenance staff drove home the need to establish staffing ratios and minimum maintenance standards.

Care aides Heather Davis and Veena Barn told HEABC’s negotiators of the “unrealistic time frame” they’re given to provide personal care to seniors.

Davis explained how she and another care aide are expected to toilet, dress and prepare dentures for 17 residents and then transfer them to the dining room in about eight minutes each.

“It affords no privacy for seniors,” said Davis who’d like time for the “basics” — like talking to dying residents.

The union is proposing a process that would fully implement staffing ratios in continuing care facilities by March 31, 2002.

HEABC also heard from Surrey Memorial plumber Dave Pellerin and Lion’s Gate millwright/machinist Brian Smith on the unions’ proposal to establish minimum standards for maintenance and plant services.

“The lack of critical preventative maintenance (results in) needless risk to patients and staff,” said Pellerin. “Add to this the rapid deterioration of health care facilities and you have a recipe for disaster.”

Smith said maintenance/trades staffing at Lions Gate was one third the level set by a U.S. hospitals’ group.

The unions’ have proposed establishing minimum maintenance standards through a joint union management committee.

SPIN OF THE WEEK HEABC head Gary Moser told The Province newspaper that there’s good science supporting the benefits of mechanical lifts — the problem is money.

COUNTERSPIN A no manual lift policy could pay for itself in as little as nine months. Health employers can take that to the bank.