Healthcare Workers Protest Impact of Worker Shortage
Immediate action required by the Ontario government to address the acute shortage of front-line caregivers
There are so many aspects to long term care that are broken. Every day, workers and residents are suffering the effects of under-funding and short staffing.
At Albright Manor in Beamsville, Ontario, residents and staff are about to suffer another blow. A new schedule for nursing staff (PSWs, RPNs) will force some staff to switch units or work in multiple units, and impact the schedules and shifts of most of the workers.
“The scheduling changes will reallocate staff and force some staff to resign,” says Christa, a PSW. “That’s going to negatively impact the residents. Some caregivers have provided care for these residents for years—I think the longest person I’ve provided care for is eight years right now—and this will mean severing those relationship. I have to change units now.”
Why is Albright making such drastic changes? To combat the fact that there is a PSW shortage and that homes are short-staffed. Working short-staffed—a reality at most homes—leads to compliance orders from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. Staff at Albright claim that many of them handle up to twice their normal workload at times, and many have quit their jobs entirely as a result.
“We’re exhausted from the lack of staff,” says Sabrina, a full time PSW. Unfortunately, without more money there isn’t much these homes can do.
“The ministry has done nothing to remedy the situation,” says Michael Reid, CLAC representative. “Instead of recognizing the need for more funding for additional workers, the ministry just issues compliance orders, leaving homes scrambling to try to fix a provincial problem at the local level. As a result, Albright is enacting schedule changes that we know will only exacerbate the problem. They will only make working conditions worse and drive more workers out of the sector.
“The problem is that the government keeps adding new types of patients to the mix, and care levels have increased rapidly without any additional staffing. Now, the ministry blames the homes for worker shortages. We were hoping the new government will do something about it. We’re calling on the public to let their MPPs know that immediate action is required.”
In the mean time, workers at Albright are staging protests to draw attention to the struggles they face on a provincial and local level. On March 22, 23, and 25, several dozen workers braved the March winds to raise awareness.
Those holding signs in the cold not only included PSWs and RPNs represented by CLAC Local 302, but RNs represented by the Ontario Nurses Association and Local 302 members who work as housekeeping and dietary staff, who are not directly impacted by these changes.
“Everyone is really banding together trying to support each other because no one wants to see anyone leave,” says Liegha, an RPN who has worked at Albright for 10 years. “These changes mean that I will have different days off and this will affect my personal life and so I will likely be forced to look for a new job. I do love my job and I love the residents. They feel like family, so it’s upsetting.”
Two RNs, represented by ONA, said they were protesting because they feel resident care will suffer. Sabrina agrees. “It’s impacting the resident care and the staff morale.”
Nikki, a CLAC steward who works in housekeeping and isn’t impacted directly by the changes, stood in solidarity to support her fellow members and the residents that they all work together to support. “They blindsided us with the new scheduling. This impacts people with childcare issues or elderly parents, or who have to coordinate with their spouse’s schedule. Management didn’t need to do it—we already had a solution [that the union reached in bargaining] but they won’t budge on it. So that’s how we ended up here protesting."
Staff will continue to protest to raise awareness while the union files grievances and lobbies management to change their mind.