Broken promises? B.C. care homes call on province for help after losing staff to vaccine mandates
The care of seniors is already being hurt by the loss of nearly 2,000 B.C. workers in assisted living and long-term care due to vaccine mandates.
"They're getting less care," said Karen Biggs, CEO of Menno Place in Abbotsford.
"So if you get a bath twice a week, maybe you get it once a week (now). If you get up twice a day, maybe you'll get up once a day," she said.
Menno Place has lost seven regular staff and 19 casuals who quit after the province made COVID-19 vaccination a requirement in care facilities. Biggs says that's in addition to the 39 casuals she lost after the single site order was implemented.
"We have stopped new admissions as of yesterday," said Biggs.
"Right now, one of our units has seven empty beds. We're holding those beds empty," she explained.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said Tuesday that "the province is working with health authorities and operators on a home-by-home basis to ensure that... contingency plans are in place to ensure residents continue to get the care they need."
But some operators say that is not happening, and feel the province's promises have been broken.
"I put in to the health authorities for five extra LPNs and I got two. I put in for six extra care aids and I got two," said Biggs.
Still, she may have been one of the lucky operators.
Hendrik Van Ryk, the vice-president of human resources at H and H Total Care Services, says his company has lost staff at its Penticton and Kamloops locations.
He says when the company reached out to Interior Health, the health authority said it wouldn't be able to send any workers.
He calls it a "crisis" situation.
CTV News contacted Interior Health but it did not respond. Fraser Health told CTV to contact the Ministry of Health for information.
In a statement, the Ministry of Health says, “Health authorities report that existing contingency plans are ensuring residents receive the care they need. Contingency plans for periods of low staffing include a number of options including offering staff additional shifts (including overtime) and re-deploying staff from other areas.”
The Ministry points out that “…as of October 11, in all of B.C., 96 per cent of long-term care staff have received a first dose, and 93 per cent have received a second dose.”
Meanwhile, workers say they are feeling the stress of staffing shortages.
"Just burnout. Fatigue and burnout," explained Dale Carlisle, who works as a rehabilitation assistant at Menno Home.
"Sometimes a person might work overtime but now they're having to work multiple days' overtime," he said.
Biggs believes the health authorities are just as short-staffed as the care homes are.
She likens the situation to a pressure cooker that's about to blow
"At this point, we've got the cork on the pressure cooker but we just don't how much more that our staff can handle...and quite honestly, i don't know how much more my leadership team can handle."
She says she's especially concerned because staff are being asked to manage the situation in the midst of facing COVID-19 outbreaks in facilities.
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