Burnaby council supports Willingdon Park care aides

Agrees to look at monitoring privatized health care work

Willingdon Park care aides may be only two weeks away from their last day on the job, but a fightback that began the day they received their layoff notices is gaining steady momentum and growing community support.

In preparation for their second rally in less than a month, the laid-off workers took a delegation of more than 20 supporters to Burnaby municipal council on June 11, where they presented a 10,000-name petition protesting the facility’s decision to privatize health care work.

“What’s happening at Willingdon Park hospital is wrong. It’s putting profit ahead of people,” said Sarjit Dhillon, who has worked at the hospital for 23 years. “We ask that you support us as we fight for our seniors and for decently paid, community-supporting jobs.”

Barb Bardua, who’s been a care aide at Willingdon Park for 17 years, said she worries that a private company won’t be able to deliver consistent care, and that the direct working relationship care aides now have with the nursing team will be ruptured “because care aides from the private company will be directed by their agency.”

Raj Atwal, the local chair, who has worked for 16 years at the facility, appealed to council to consider what it will mean for residents to lose the familiar, trusted relationships they have with the 35 regular and 20 casual care aides who will work their last shifts on June 27.

“Most have worked at Willingdon Park for more than 10 years,” she said. “We’re there because we want to be, because we love working with seniors and because we are doing useful, important work.”

Council’s response was extremely supportive. They approved the delegation’s request to close the block in front of Willingdon Park hospital for a June 14 rally and agreed to consider setting up a health services committee that would monitor the effects of privatizated health care in Burnaby. The request will be reviewed at the next meeting of the executive committee.

Willingdon Park is the first long-term care facility in B.C. to contract out seniors’ personal care.