Home care worker tying shoe of man in wheelchairThe union representing home care workers in Winnipeg is calling on the provincial government and health authorities to provide immediate support to these frontline health care workers, citing that burnout and severe understaffing is leading to reduced care for vulnerable Manitobans.

“Home care workers are deeply connected to the people they care for, but staffing shortages, suppressed wages, casualization of the workforce, and government neglect for Home Care workers means Manitobans who need help are just not getting it,” says CUPE 204 President, Debbie Boissonneault.

On January 6, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) issued a media release, acknowledging significant client service cancellations in the Home Care program due to short-staffing.

“Home care visits are being cancelled at unprecedented rates, leaving clients in the community without dependable care. The stress on existing staff is leading to burnout, increased injuries, resignations, and medical leaves, including for schedulers and other office staff who help administer the program,” says Boissonneault.

CUPE 204 is calling on the WRHA and the Province to acknowledge the scale of the staffing crisis in home care, and to reverse the casualization of the workforce in favour of more full-time positions.

The Province also needs to increase public health care funding for the program and improve recruitment and retention of home care staff through better wages and benefits.

“These are frontline workers who care for the vulnerable in their own homes, but they don’t even have adequate access to paid sick days during the pandemic, and most are casual or part-time. It’s unacceptable,” says Boissonneault.

CUPE 204 calls for home rapid COVID tests for home care workers.

CUPE 204 is repeating its requests for employer-provided rapid tests and home tests for frontline staff.

“Currently, vaccinated frontline home care workers have no access to employer-provided testing of any kind,” says Boissonneault.

“No one should be going to work sick or with symptoms, but unlike other employers, the WRHA has no testing options for frontline home care staff beyond the backlogged public testing sites. It’s bad for workers, bad for clients, and it’s bad for public health.”

The WRHA Home Care program enables people to live in their own homes in the community, while ensuring hospital beds and beds in other facilities remain available for those that need them. In July, CUPE filed a policy grievance with the WRHA on the issue of staffing in Home Care, calling for immediate action on the staffing crisis.

CUPE 204 represents 14,000 health care workers including approximately 2,500 employees in WRHA Community Programs that include Home Care staff. Collective bargaining continues but progress has been slow. In August, the local’s 14,000 members voted 99 per centin favour of a strike mandate.