EDMONTON – A union representing over 3,000 employees of Alberta’s seniors’ homes and long-term care facilities has released a survey of its members painting a grim picture of seniors’ care in the province.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees, (CUPE) asked its members working in Alberta seniors’ facilities to fill out a survey about working conditions, the work environment, staffing issues and resident care. Almost 600 responses were collected between June and September 2006.
CUPE Alberta President D’Arcy Lanovaz said the union decided to release the report because it shows how little improvement there has been since the Auditor General looked into the matter last year.
“We see staff shortages, lack of proper funding, and poor working conditions all adding up to poor care for seniors,” Lanovaz said. “It’s difficult work, it’s underpaid, most of the staff don’t have a pension plan, and as a result – there are not enough people to take proper care of residents.”
Among the findings of the survey:
- 66% of respondents reported little or no time for staff to give ‘one-on-one’ attention to residents. A further 22% reported that this was sometimes a problem.
- 49% of respondents reported ‘not enough time to meet resident care needs e.g. bathing time’. A further 25% reported that this was sometimes a problem.
- Some residents require more health care support than can be provided in lodge/residential settings (49% serious problem, 36% sometimes a problem).
- Residents are on waiting lists for long-term care but spaces are not available to meet their needs (47% serious problem, 27% sometimes a problem).
- Staffing levels adequate to keep up with workload and resident needs (53% serious problem, 33% sometimes a problem).
Linda Joyce, a personal care aide at Capital Care, said the survey results confirm what she sees every day in her worksite.
“We’ve been underpaid and over worked for years,” said Joyce. “But now, with places like Tim Horton’s paying $15/hour, we’re losing staff even faster – and they are not being replaced.”
“As staff leave, the work for the rest of us gets even harder. And it’s the residents who are suffering. They are the ones waiting longer for baths, meals, medication, or changes of bedding or clothing,” said Joyce. “And forget personal attention – I hate to say it, but there isn’t time for that anymore.”
Lanovaz pointed the blame at the Alberta government.
“The provincial government has neglected seniors for far too long,” said Lanovaz. “The Tories have ignored all the signs. They have under funded seniors’ programs, brushed off the Auditor General’s report, and ignored their own MLA task force.”
“You don’t have to believe the union, the Auditor General said staff were underpaid and overworked,” said Lanovaz. “It’s seniors who are suffering as a result.”
Download a copy of the survey at:www.alberta.cupe.ca/download/seniorscrisis.pdf
For more information about CUPE Alberta, visit:www.alberta.cupe.ca