The union that represents home care workers in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Southern Health-Santé Sud, and Northern Regional Health Authority, sent a letter today to Cameron Friesen, the Manitoba Minister of Health, Seniors and Active Living, asking that home care workers immediately be provided with personal protective equipment (PPE), in accordance to the April 4th directive from Shared Health, and that fully paid sick leave be extended to home care workers for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“While we are glad that the government and the health authorities are listening to CUPE about the need for enhanced PPE for home care workers. We are concerned that home care workers will need to continue working without proper PPE for another week or more,” said Debbie Boissonneault, President of CUPE 204, which represents home care workers in the WRHA. “For the safety of home care workers and their clients, the new PPE guidelines need to be implemented today.”

On April 1, 2020, all health care workers based in facilities were directed to wear masks, eye protection, gowns, and gloves whenever providing direct patient care. The same direction was not provided to workers working in the community, such as home care workers.

On April 4, 2020, new directives were provided by Shared Health that extended PPE access to home care workers, but due to supply and distribution issues some health care workers, including home care workers, might not have access to proper PPE until the week of April 13, 2020.

“The lack of PPE for home care workers is yet another indignity that they have been forced to endure from a health care system and government that continues to treat them as second class,” said Christine Lussier, President of CUPE 8600, which represents home care workers in the Northern Regional Health Authority. “Lack of access to PPE must not be yet another burden that home care workers are asked to bear.”

Unlike all other public health care workers in the province, home care workers do not have fully paid sick time, extended health care benefits, long-term disability, a guaranteed defined benefit pension, and whole host of other benefits which are standard for public health care employees in Manitoba.

“Every interaction between a home care worker and a client that doesn’t involve proper PPE usage is an unnecessary risk to the health and safety of both the worker and the client,” said Darrin Cook, President of CUPE 4270, which represents home care workers in Southern Health-Santé Sud. “Nine days is simply too long to wait for their safety. Home care workers and their clients need PPE today.”