CUPE calls for long-term care standards to include hours of care, full-time jobs, sick leave
By Pat Van Horne, USW member of the CHC Board of Directors
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is calling on the Health Standards Organization (HSO) to include set hours of care, full-time jobs and paid sick leave for workers in its new standard for long-term care, expected to be released in late 2022.
The draft HSO’s CAN/HSO 21001:2022 – Long-Term Care Services was open for a 60-day comment period until March 27, 2022, and its Technical Committee Chair Dr. Samir Sinha said more than 6,000 responses were received during the entire process.
CUPE National, a member of the Canadian Health Coalition, and others remain concerned about the poor quality of care in privately-owned, for-profit long-term care facilities, which was exposed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the draft HSO standard acknowledges that the conditions of work are the conditions of care, CUPE notes that the bulk of LTC staff work on a part-time or casual basis and workers need to hold multiple jobs just to make ends meet. As a result, residents encounter workers who don’t know their patients’ needs, preferences or personal stories. Even worse, when workers fall ill without lack paid sick leave, they face the choice of putting residents at risk of infection, or not being able to support themselves or their families.
“Better working conditions with full-time jobs and paid sick leave is a pre-requisite for safer, better resident care,” says CUPE National’s comments to the HSO on the draft LTC standard.
“Standards are meaningless without concrete measures that can be assessed. . . Furthermore, the standard should require LTC homes to disclose information such as hours of hands-on care per resident day, percentage of hours worked by full-time employees, and financial statements to promote greater transparency and accountability to residents, workers and the public.”
A second standard being developed by the Canadian Standards Association will provide guidance on safe operating practices and infection prevention and control in LTC homes. This standard is open for review and public comment until April 11, 2022. CUPE National has said it will also be making a submission on this standard arguing that infection prevention and control (IPAC) measures need to be developed in consultation with front-line staff.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that strong government action is needed to improve long-term care, including better legislation and regulations, inspection processes, and enforcement measures,” said the union.