B.C.’s groundbreaking transition away from multi-site employment for senior home care aides is nearly complete, as COVID-19 outbreaks at health care facilities are brought under control.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry announced the end of multi-site care home work March 24, effective for senior homes with coronavirus infections found in staff and residents. The infection control issue first emerged at Lynn Valley Care Centre in North Vancouver, with infection travelling with a part-time staff member to Lions Gate Hospital.
More than 20 B.C. senior care homes were affected by coronavirus, with 558 people infected, 218 of them staff. As of June 8 there were only four active outbreaks remaining, all long-term care homes in the Fraser Health region, Henry said.
Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the intention to end the practice province-wide early April, with orders to care home operators to provide all their employment data to the ministry. He estimated the cost of giving part-time workers sufficient single-site hours to support themselves at $10 million per month. By April 30, the half-way point had been reached.
By June 4, Dix said the transition was almost complete, with fewer than 400 of the 8,878 multi-site employees assigned to a single site. The measure has been adopted in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, in some cases with orders that were not used in B.C., where private and non-profit operators agreed to move to single-site employment with union wages.
“I think this is both an important step we’ve taken and a remarkable achievement that’s happened in the context of COVID-19 in the last number of weeks,” Dix said. “It’s because we made the decision to level up hourly wages to union wages in accordance with the terms of the single staffing.
“I know jurisdictions have proposed and even ordered single-site staffing, but to make it happen requires ensuring that workers are treated both fairly and appropriately and that’s happened in B.C. I think it’s an enormous achievement.”
Dix said the employees will see retroactive pay on their mid-June cheques, and facilities will be compensated by the health authorities they contract with.
The completion comes as the Lynn Valley Care Centre was declared virus-free after 20 patients died of COVID-19 related causes. Betty Wills, director of care at the facility, said while staff are hired through different companies, they work together effectively.
“We are immensely grateful for the work they have done,” Wills said. “We are relieved to see that 32 of our residents and all our team members have recovered from COVID-19.”