Manitoba’s largest union is calling for an immediate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and staffing strategy for long-term care facilities in Manitoba, including a commitment from health officials to ensuring consistent and adequate PPE for all staff in personal care homes.

“We are hearing from health care support workers in many long-term care homes, public and private, that front-line staff are not receiving adequate PPE, and that available levels change daily,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE Health Care Coordinator.

Health officials confirm that there are challenges with PPE shipments, and there is an effort to “conserve” PPE, but CUPE believes we cannot afford a single hole in the protection of staff and residents.

“We know that care homes have some of our most vulnerable citizens, and we need to ensure that caregivers have every tool possible to protect themselves and the residents because things could get desperate.”

According to Shared Health guidelines, only staff who have “direct contact” with residents are provided PPE, while other staff are not. This raises concerns from CUPE considering all staff are operating in close quarters in personal care homes, with highly vulnerable residents.  For example, porters are not provided PPE despite their role in transporting residents.

“Staff desperately need consistent PPE,” said McAteer.  “This is compounded by the fact that long-term care facilities in Manitoba have been working short staffed for years, with insufficient staff to resident ratios, and if one or two staff get ill or are told to self-quarantine, it will affect the entire facility.”

For years CUPE has been calling on governments and private care homes to increase staffing levels to ensure residents are receiving high quality care.  In times of a pandemic, staffing shortages can result in major safety issues if staff are told to self-quarantine.

“We know that personal care homes across Canada are facing significant staffing challenges and the ability to provide PPE, but we believe there is no time for delays,” said McAteer.  “Other provinces are dealing with serious outbreaks at care homes, and significant challenges with the safety of staff and residents.  We cannot make those same mistakes here.”