Oct. 18 was Health Care Assistant Day.
First proclaimed by the provincial government in 2011, it’s a time to recognize the skill and commitment B.C.’s care aides and community health workers bring to health care’s front lines.
Health care assistants are the backbone of personal care and support in our long-term care homes, the community, and increasingly in our hospitals.
They provide seniors and others with every aspect of personal care – from feeding, toileting, dental care and bathing, to comforting those who are confused, afraid or in the final stages of life.
And they do it in the face of significant obstacles that undermine the quality of care they are able to provide.
For too long, government has ignored the warning signs that come from not having sufficient staff to provide the level and quality of care British Columbians deserve.
In B.C.’s residential care facilities, for example, it has become typical for care aides to try and meet the needs of their often frail, elderly residents, without being given enough time to do the job.
They are literally being run off their feet, which results in more injuries, illness and, too frequently, burnout.
And when staff are not able to be there for someone — who may be lonely, agitated or near death — a whole other level of stress kicks in.
In 2011, the B.C.’s Ombudsperson’s landmark investigation into seniors’ care called for higher staffing levels and enforceable standards for key aspects of resident care — bathing, meal preparation and recreational services.
It’s time to heed her call. And it’s time to admit that focussing solely on the bottom line is not working.
Scrimping on human resources may save a few dollars in the short term. But once you add up the additional costs that come from increased injuries and sick time there are no long-term savings to be found by understaffing.
As the union representing the vast majority of care aides and community health workers in B.C., HEU is calling for the changes needed to ensure staff have the time they need to provide quality care.
Without that basic investment, our seniors will continue to lose out and our care aides and community support workers will continue to burn out.
It’s time to care. It’s time to invest in people — the people who need care, and the people who provide it.
Hospital Employees’ Union