Posted on May 4, 2020
UCP NEEDS TO COME CLEAN ON WHAT IT’S ACTUALLY DOING TO SUPPORT SENIORS, CONTINUING CARE STAFF
EDMONTON -- Alberta’s NDP Opposition is calling on Jason Kenney and the UCP Government to do more to support seniors living in continuing care and the courageous staff looking after them amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Government has rushed to announce their relaunch strategy but have ignored the rising number of COVID-19 outbreaks in seniors’ facilities and have mismanaged the implementation of vital measures to stop the spread of the virus. Continuing care facilities currently account for about 10 per cent of the positive COVID-19 cases in the province, but 72 per cent of those who have died as a result of the deadly virus were residents of such facilities.
“For weeks Alberta’s NDP has been calling on the UCP to protect seniors and continuing care facility workers but we have not seen tangible proof that the actions they’re taking have worked,” said Lori Sigurdson, NDP Seniors and Housing Critic. “The UCP are failing seniors, their families and all Albertans by not properly addressing this growing issue.”
The NDP Official Opposition is specifically calling on the Government to:
- Increase wages for all continuing care workers to public-sector rates (this would be, on average, double the $2 per hour increase currently offered by the UCP)
- Provide a timeline for when single-site staffing rules will be implemented in continuing care facilities. The initial public health order was introduced in early April but then rescinded. There has been no transparency as to why this order was put on hold and what the UCP’s timeline is for when it will be enacted.
- Provide consistent shipments of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) to continuing care facilities - including for re-launch needs - and cover the costs of this life-saving equipment
- Ensure more frequent in-person inspections at all continuing care sites occur during the public health emergency. Inspections done virtually should not be considered adequate.
- Once the public health state of emergency has been lifted, launch a full investigation into the management of the COVID-19 crisis within all Alberta continuing care facilities.
"It is extremely important for the government to implement a wage guarantee for all employees of all classifications working in healthcare. This will help to maintain proper staffing levels, because this will help to recruit and retain employees. It will also ensure that the employees will not be facing a financial crisis by working at a single site,” said Natasha Lisun, President of CUPE Local 8.
“Without the guarantee of higher wages and higher full-time equivalent hours, this will put our frontline workers in situations where they will not be able to support their families and themselves. No Healthcare worker should have to work more than one full-time job in order to make ends meet. This should not only be implemented at facilities listed in the latest health order, but should be expanded to all healthcare facilities deemed as essential and to all classifications."
Last Wednesday, several inquiries were made by the NDP Official Opposition to the Minister of Health’s office about progress with improving conditions inside continuing care facilities during the pandemic. Specifically, the Minister’s office was asked about a timeline for reintroducing single-site staffing, whether all continuing care facilities were now supplied with proper PPE and how many additional staff had been hired following the Minister’s announcement of a $2-per-hour pay hike for continuing care staff.
As of today, the minister has not responded.
“This Government needs to do better,” Sigurdson said. “They need to be transparent about whether the changes they’ve made are actually helping our frontline heroes working in continuing care facilities to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“The Government cannot shift their focus to reopening our province and ignore the very real threat of COVID-19 spread that remains in at least 36 Alberta continuing care facilities.
“The majority of Albertans who have died as a result of COVID-19 were residents of these facilities. This government is failing them and their families. They must do better.”