Hospital Employee Union members rallied Thursday to raise their concerns with recruitment and staffing at seniors’ care facilities following a vote to strike.
The rally featured a health-care worker dressed in a Grinch costume at Salmon Arm’s Hillside Village, operated by the Good Samaritan Societies, Dec. 1.
“It’s Christmas time and the Grinch goes along and steals all the toys and… in the end grows a big heart. On Dec. 12 we hope the employer grows a big heart as well,” said HEU negotiator Debbie Camal Ali.
The GSS denied this claim, as GSS director of communications, Julie Williams said GSS, a not-for-profit society, has reported losses.
“Good Samaritan Canada, which runs our B.C. operations, has reported consecutive losses for fiscal years 2008-2016 inclusive,” she said.
The HEU workers have been without a contract at the 112-bed Good Samar
itan Society (GSS) facility in Salmon Arm since March, 2016, (along with five other GSS sites: Vernon has two sites, Penticton, Gibsons and New Westminster.) according to a HEU release. Around 700 HEU workers at the six facilities voted for strike action, Nov. 15.
“This is the first year ever that we’ve bargained with the Good Samaritan Society where they’ve actually had a surplus of funds… so the staff has said put the money into seniors care,” said Camal Ali.
The Grinch agreed with Camal Ali.
“It’s not a lot about money, it’s about seniors care. At the end of the day we want to conclude a deal that’s fair for everybody,” said Grinch/health care aid, Norman Reifferscheid.
HEU communications officer Neil Monckton said Don’t Be a Grinch Hillside Health Care Rally aims to bring awareness to the public.
“Overall we have a problem with staffing levels. It’s not unique to Good Samaritan, it’s system wide.” He added at Hillside, having permanent staff members are important for the well-being of seniors.
“That relationship (between staff and senior) is really important to the care of the senior.”
He said GSS is not meeting province regulations and after HEU performed an audit, they discovered GSS had a surplus of funds among other issues.
Monckton said there is also issues with lack of staffing.
“We did an audit, about 40 hours a week of care is not being done because of lack of staff. The workers have to do more, or don’t take their breaks.”
The audit was performed at the six GSS sites in question.
In response to Monckton’s comments, Williams said regulations set by health authorities are being met by GSS.
“We currently report on monitored hours to the health authorities on a minimum semi-annual basis. We do not have a deficit in direct-care hours, as we’re meeting our direct-care accountabilities as they are set out by the health authorities.”
However, Monckton said GSS and HEU staff are not staying in positions because of overwork, or are leaving for better pay.
“They need to make improvements to the compensation so that they can both keep the people they’ve got and bring people in to fill the gaps. We know they have a surplus and they need to put it into front-line services,” he said.
HEU and GSS will return to the bargaining table with a mediator, Dec. 12.
“We’re committed to bargaining in good faith, we’re looking forward to getting back to the table with them,” said Williams.