Ontario long-term care workers continue to work in several facilities in British Columbia. tight

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It was a hard lesson learned from the Lynn Valley Care Center in North Vancouver, the long-term care home in British Columbia that was the first – and is still among the hardest hit – by a coronavirus outbreak in Canada.

The facility, which recorded the first death from COVID-19 in the country, has since seen another 16 people dead and nearly 80 staff and residents have been infected since the epidemic began in early March.

Officials now believe the virus arrived at home through a social worker with several employers.

Isobel Mackenzie, British Columbia seniors advocate, Isobel Mackenzie, contact tracing – which involves tracking the movements of an infected person and identifying all of their close contacts – has shown that the Lynn Valley epidemic was linked to at least one other outbreak.

“This healthcare worker worked in other facilities,” she said. “We saw a link between the epidemics… at that time, when we were doing contact tracing.

“This is what has been revealed. “

Isobel Mackenzie, a lawyer for seniors in British Columbia, said contact tracing revealed links between the COVID-19 outbreaks and social workers working in several homes in the province. (Maggie MacPherson / CBC)

Homes for the aged across Canada have been devastated by COVID-19, with cases confirmed in at least 600 facilities across the country.

Families with loved ones in these long-term care homes have been locked out for weeks, and no one but the staff is coming or going as facilities try to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Yet new outbreaks continue to appear.

BEFORE CHRIST. limits movement between houses

Shortly after the outbreak in Lynn Valley, British Columbia. the provincial health worker, Dr. Bonnie Henry, made an order requiring all caregivers to work in one home; part-time employees would receive full-time wages to compensate for their inability to work in multiple facilities.

Although the strategy has been slow to roll out across the province, Mackenzie said, it has been implemented in areas most affected by the virus and will continue in the rest of British Columbia. in the next weeks.

The decision was made based on evidence that “caregivers could potentially transport the virus from one nursing home to another,” said Mackenzie.

“I think it will really help us get through this pandemic. “

Recommendations – but no rules

And while Ontario appears to agree that a single employer model would be safer in the context of the current pandemic, it did not prescribe such a measure.

Last month, the provincial government released guidelines specifically targeting long-term care homes, stating that

Yet only about half of personal support workers with multiple employers in Ontario have signed up for one home, said Andy Savela, director of health care for Unifor, a union representing 30,000 workers. of the province.

Savela said that at this point the provincial government has only suggested that personal support workers stay in one house – and have not gone all the way to British Columbia. to promise these workers full-time wages.

With about 60 percent of its members working part-time in multiple homes, he said it was simply not possible for many workers who still had bills to pay.

Andy Savela is the director of health for Unifor, representing some 30,000 social workers in Ontario. (Katie Pedersen / CBC)

“PSWs must have jobs with many employers in different locations in order to make a living by combining all of these jobs,” said Savela. “Unfortunately, the coronavirus does not change that. “

Cindy Hasler – Unifor member and vice-president of her 504 division – works full-time at a house in the Hamilton area, but says a number of her colleagues still work in multiple locations.

Some colleagues come from a hospital or other nursing home and then work in shifts – and vice versa. This makes her particularly nervous, she said, because although her establishment has not yet registered cases of COVID-19, there are epidemics in other homes in her community.

The CBC agreed not to identify the house because Hasler is not allowed to speak for him.

“I think it’s disgusting,” said Hasler of the houses that still have workers moving between multiple sites. “I think they should work in one place. … It is about the lives and deaths of our residents and the safety of our staff.

“Everyone is very anxious and very nervous, it will happen to us,” she said. “I would really like to see the government take the lead and demand that you only work in one long-term care facility at a time.”

Cindy Hasler, 53, is a home support worker in a Hamilton area home who would like to see Ontario formalize a directive regarding part-time workers moving between establishments. (Turgut Yeter / CBC)

Personal support workers in Ontario earn between $ 17 and $ 21 an hour for providing direct care to residents of long-term care facilities; this includes things like changing, feeding and bathing residents, as well as providing most of their daily social interactions.

Savela agrees that the “one home per worker” directive needs to be formalized.

“The government has to come up with a compensation system … so that it can choose its main employer where it gets the most hours and then be compensated to make up the difference,” he said.

“We still needed staff”

At least one nursing home in Ontario has managed to do so with money already issued by the government.

The St. Joseph’s Lifecare Center in Brantford, Ontario asked employees to work in one location and offered full-time shifts to anyone who chose to stay at the facility.

“We needed staff anyway because this is a very critical time. So we’ve increased their shifts so they can… make up for the loss of some of their shifts in other locations, ”said facility management Bidar Swamy.

To pay for the wage increase, Swamy said they used emergency funds the Ontario government had released for all nursing homes following COVID-19.

“We have obtained additional funding from the ministry to accommodate things, especially in this time of crisis,” he said. “All homes have received additional funding. “

WATCH | Ontario allows staff to work in several long-term care homes during a pandemic:

Ontario continues to allow staff to work in multiple long-term care homes despite numerous COVID-19 outbreaks in multiple facilities. The B.C. government quickly stopped authorizing this practice after outbreaks in long-term care facilities across the province. 1:49

St. Joseph’s Health Center currently has an COVID-19 outbreak designation; an occasional employee contracted the virus in the community and worked at home while being asymptomatic. But 11 days after the case appeared, no one else in the house had shown any symptoms and the tests so far have been negative, said Swamy.

On March 30, about a week after the original directive, the Ontario government told nursing home administrators that despite its recommendation, institutions should not give their workers ultimatums, requiring them to choose between working only at home or being laid off.

Swamy said St. Joseph’s would meet the request if a worker wanted to return to his old schedule, but so far no one has come forward.

“It’s better for them because they don’t want to be exposed to different houses,” he said. ” Even before [the directive], some of them actually asked if they could only work for us.

“You have to get involved and listen to them, because, you know, these are the eyes and ears of the residents. They know much better than anyone, I think. “

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