Quality care is built on relationships and the work done in long-term care homes is intimate. Seniors are bathed, toileted, fed, and groomed by their care staff in their last years. They share their fondest and their darkest memories with staff. They are held and consoled by their caregivers in their final hours. These are relationships of mutual trust, dignity and respect that help our most vulnerable Nova Scotians. These types of relationships can only be created when there is ample time and space permitted to form them.
Increasingly though, stories of insufficient numbers of staff resulting in an inability to meet even the basic needs of residents, have become common. We believe immediate action is needed by the provincial government to increase staffing levels to provide the care needed by Nova Scotians living in long-term care.
Front-line workers in long-term care have suggested that the following steps are crucial in resolving the current staffing crisis.
- Increase funding so that all publicly funded long-term care facilities reach a minimum staffing level of 4.1 direct care hours per resident per day
- Conduct a comprehensive review, involving leading health policy and long-term care experts and key stakeholders, to establish a legislated minimum staffing level that is necessary to provide quality care
- Develop a full-tuition system and a study grant for CCA students
- Offer better wages, pensions and benefits for long-term care employees to attract and retain staff
Long-term care workers demonstrate an unwavering commitment to the residents they work with. They entered the field to enhance the lives of seniors and these workers derive great satisfaction when they are able to do that. Workers face unmanageable workloads and regularly go home feeling “defeated” by constraints in delivering the kind of care they want to provide.
Most employers are attempting to correct the staff shortage problem; however, many continue to leave the first sick-call unfilled (to meet budgets reduced by the government), as well as the practice of “mandating” staff to work overtime. In 2019, 44% of CUPE members had been mandated to work overtime shifts they did not want. The average length of a mandatory overtime shift is 15.7 hours, with a maximum shift of 38 hours.
These practices are unsustainable and are leading to burnout, injuries and an exodus of workers from the sector. People seeking employment are not entering this field of work for a number of reasons – the main ones being low wages, workplace injury, and a lack of accessible training opportunities.
Injuries are compromising our health care system with workers unable to continue to provide high quality care and leaving other care providers at a higher risk. Fully 74% of CUPE members in long-term care report they are working short on a regular basis and 36% are working short each and every day.
Nova Scotia’s long-term and home care sector has the highest injury rate of any workforce sector in the province, including the construction industry.
The government has put a Band-Aid on the problem by hiring “long-term care assistants”. This only adds to stress, anxiety and injuries in the workplace. The temporary assistants are not certified and unable to provide residents with hands-on care, which only adds to the workload of continuing care assistants.
Also, the current bursary offered by the government is inadequate and only covers $4,000 for tuition and books for students in the province’s CCA programs. It should be noted, however, that the current cost of the program at the NSCC is $6,700 for tuition, books and other fees.
This question also needs to be asked: is the government freezing wages, and hiring long-term care assistants who will earn less than CCAs, because the sector of work is predominantly made up of women?
Reasonable workloads, fair compensation, open communication, respectful management, and stable labour relations are all necessary to maintain cohesive, consistent care teams, and quality care conditions for Nova Scotians living in long-term care.
Send a message to your MLA
Please listen to the dedicated workers who provide care for our loved ones in long-term care. Increasingly, stories of insufficient numbers of staff resulting in an inability to meet even the basic needs of residents, have become common. Long-term care workers in Nova Scotia are at a breaking point.
Current practices are unsustainable and are leading to burnout, injuries and an exodus of workers from the sector. People seeking employment are not entering this field for a number of reasons – the main ones being low wages, workplace injury, and a lack of accessible training opportunities.
We believe immediate action is needed by the provincial government to increase staffing levels to provide the care needed by Nova Scotians living in long-term care.
Send a message to your MLA asking them to increase the staff-to-patient ratio for Nova Scotians living in long-term care to 4.1 direct care hours per resident per day.
More caring hands mean a better quality of life for both workers and residents.
This email will be sent to your MLA, as well as Minister of Health and Wellness Randy Delorey and Premier Stephen McNeil.
More Caring Hands is a campaign by the CUPE Nova Scotia Long-Term Care Coordinating Committee
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is the leading union in the long-term care sector in Nova Scotia, representing 4,800 members at 49 facilities. Our members work in residential care as continuing care assistants (CCAs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), dietary workers, cleaners, facility maintenance, administration, physiotherapy, recreation programming, as well most other work classifications in the sector.