St. Boniface Hospital Winnipeg - Deb FraserHealth care support staff are being asked to monitor patient blood pressure, blood sugars, deliver medical creams, and other treatments, all of which are duties of nurses, says CUPE 204, representing more than 14,000 health care workers in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA).

“The provincial government has made such a mess of health care that Health Care Aides are now being asked to perform nursing duties,” says CUPE 204 President, Debbie Boissonneault. “These frontline workers stepped up to help with additional duties throughout the pandemic, but now the health authority seems to be making these changes permanent, affecting nurses’ scope of practice and putting support staff in unacceptable positions with minimal training and no additional support.”

In the fall of 2020, the WRHA began shifting specific patient and client care tasks from nurses to Health Care Aides in Winnipeg hospitals and facilities; a policy which has since rolled out across the city. Support staff are provided minimal training, and no additional compensation for the added duties.

CUPE 204 has filed a series of policy grievances in response to changing models of care being implemented by the WRHA.

Similar changes have been introduced in Home Care during the third wave of the pandemic.

The WRHA has begun directing Home Support Workers to administer medical treatments normally conducted by certified Home Care Attendants (HCAs). These client care tasks include supervision or administration of eye drops, oral medications, inhalers, medical ointments, and nitro patches - tasks normally done by HCAs but now being assigned to Home Support Workers who are primarily responsible for cleaning and tidying client homes.

“The WRHA is putting at risk the standards, work, and certifications of frontline health care workers,” says Boissonneault. “This pandemic has shown how important proper funding, staffing, and management of our public health care system is. We should be raising standards, not weakening them.”