In the wake of the COVID 19 crisis, a union representing auxiliary nursing and support staff is calling for staffing changes.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill says Alberta should impose ‘single site staffing’, to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

CUPE represents 150 employees at Mackenzie Towne Continuing Care Centre in Calgary. There have been 36 cases of COVID-19 among residents, and another 6 cases among staff. Two of those cases have led to death.

Gill says that up to 40% of the CUPE members in long-term care work in multiple health care facilities and risk passing COVID around. Yesterday, the chief Medical Officer has issued an order preventing Mackenzie employees from working elsewhere, but Gill says that order is too limited and comes too late in the process.

“Long-term care is a wage ghetto with low pay and limited access to full time hours. Workers take second and third jobs to make ends meet,” said Gill. “Employees go from one facility to another, and the virus spreads. In short, poor working conditions are accelerating a health crisis.”

The Kenney government decided yesterday against enforcement of single site staffing rules. Gill said that decision was “irresponsible and unethical.”

“Alberta needs to stop the flow of workers between health care facilities. Patients and health care workers are getting sick.”

“We tell people to stay at home, but then say it’s okay for health care workers to move from centre to centre? There is no rational or medical reason for this.”

Gill released a letter from one manager indicating AHS direction was to ask employees to only work at one site per day. “As if going home for the night is somehow going to rid workers of a virus.”

CUPE is calling on the Alberta government to do the following:

  • Prevent the movement of workers from one health facility to another during the crisis.
  • Protect the hours and employment of workers who choose one facility over another.
  • Protect the benefits, wages and pension payments of workers.
  • Improve wages, at least temporarily, among staff to recruit enough workers to allow proper social distancing among workers and patients.

Similar measures have been enacted in British Columbia. Details here:  

“Giving workers full time employment will saves lives and improve care,” said Gill. “It’s a win-win.”