M EDICINE H AT
J ANUARY - M ARCH 2009
Masterpiece River Ridge
Good Samaritan Society
South Country Village
Welcome to the very first issue of our Business Agent Report
I would like to thank everyone who filled out a
Our goal is to keep you informed of what is hap- Working Short Form and everyone who wrote a
pening in our Care Homes, as well as teach you in letter to the Editor. We are starting to put incredi-
a fun way the benefits of having a Union, and how ble pressure on the Provincial Government and
you as an individual can participate in its growth that pressure is coming from you. Every time you
and strength. You are the Union, and it is only as fill out one of those forms you are recording on
strong as its members. paper the care you are not able to provide to resi-
dents of the Long Term Care facilities that are
In this issue and in months to come, we will advise represented by the United Steelworkers.
you of upcoming classes, answer pertinent ques-
tions, and keep you abreast of changes and im- It is with this kind of documentation that we were
provements overall. able to get a news conference where we spread out
300 Working Short Forms on the floor of the Al-
We hope you will take the time to read this publica- berta Legislature with four major news stations
tion, and if you learn something you didn’t know pointing their cameras at them and asking Alberta
before, then we have succeeded in our objective.
Health and Wellness: “Why are our seniors not
getting the care that they deserve?”
Our wish is for you to participate in this project by
submitting your questions, articles or comments
and keeping this newsletter going and growing. The day of the news conference it was covered on
Global News at 5, 6 and 11 p.m. and the early
In the following pages, we have reprinted all of the news the following morning. It was also covered
Letters to the Editor that appeared in The Medicine on C.T.V. at 6 and 11 p.m. as well as coverage on
Hat News as part of United Steelworkers’ lobby- C.B.C. In the C.T.V. report, they questioned the
ing efforts to address the growing concerns and Minister of Health and Wellness about the Work-
shortcomings in our health care system, especially ing Short Forms being in their possession since
as it pertains to Senior Care. September 8th, and he back-peddled on the issue.
Our thanks to everyone for taking the time to write We had one of our care givers on the news with
letters, call our MLA and fill out the Working Short an audio excerpt on what is going on in these fa-
forms that were tabled in the Legislature. cilities. We also had radio clips on all the major
stations all day and this went out to a listening
Together we can make positive changes! audience of over a million people. So the mes-
sage you have sent through your Working Short
Forms has been heard loud and clear.
Anyone interested in assisting with this This is not the end of the lobby, only the begin-
publication, or wishing to submit ning, so I encourage you to keep filling them out
articles, comments, views or photos, and we will keep pursuing this issue until we get
please contact: meaningful change, better working conditions,
and the ability to care for people in the dignified
Lydia Wozniuk manner they deserve.
(403) 580-3975 Ray White
Suggestions are welcome!
Lobby Effort Continues Certification costs for Health Care Aides range
from $2,000 to $5,000 dollars. Enrolment in health-
Steelworkers and NDP joined forces on January 28th care aide programs is so low that schools are either
2009, by holding a press conference at the Alberta closing or suspending the program due to lack of
Legislature to publicize the plight of Long Term Care applicants. Alberta’s Health Care Aides are the
residents and overworked Health Care Workers. lowest paid in Canada. For a mere $11.00 to
$16.00/hour, they care for client-residents who are
The media was provided with 300 “working short” increasingly in need of end-of-life-care, performing
forms completed by Health Care Aides and support such tasks as toileting, bathing and tending to cathe-
workers, detailing the neglect of residents due to ter and colostomy bags. As front line staff, they are
short staffing, and the effect on the workers who pro- often verbally and physically abused while trying to
vide their care. perform basic care. The workload has tripled in the
last 15 years because residents are living longer,
Keep writing your views, filling out “Working
coming in sicker, and staffing levels have not kept
Short” forms, and making those calls to your MLA
to keep the effort alive.
An appropriate minimum staff to resident ratio
needs to be established by the Minister of
Health and legislated by the government to ensure
basic human care to our aging population.
The competency and training of Health Care
Aides and proper wages need to be addressed if we
are to meet future demands. There is no way
the Alberta government lacks the resources. Is Rob
Renner working for us to address this situation?
Before the nine Health Regions were disbanded,
Capitol Health Care in Edmonton gave Health Care
Aides an across the board salary increase of $1.00/
hour. Why was the rest of the province over-
With a view of the Alberta Legislature, Activists Faye Shaw from South looked? Don’t our Care Aides work just as
Country Village, Lydia Wozniuk from Masterpiece River Ridge and Diane
Sidaway from Rivercrest during a visit to meet top ministry officials in Sept hard? Are the residents of Medicine Hat less de-
2008 (Photo by LU 1-207 president Nick Stewart) serving of adequate care?
Health care aides worth more Our hard working Care Aides need to be properly
It seems everywhere you go in Medicine Hat, there compensated for the valuable service they continue
is another seniors’ facility being built. While that to perform because they are first and foremost care
may sound like a good thing, it concerns me that givers who love their jobs and care about the resi-
nothing is being done to address the fact that staffing dents who depend on them for their daily needs.
these retirement homes is becoming more and more
difficult. Either our loved ones or we ourselves may be in
need of this critical service in the near future. The
The number of seniors is expected to increase by time to act is now!
40% over the next 10 years, and double in less than
20. The ratio of staff to clients is often an incredible Lydia Wozniuk
1 to 20 or even 1 to 30, with staff working short 80% Medicine Hat
of the time. These working conditions are unsafe for
both residents and staff, often leading to severe inju- Published in The Medicine Hat News on Thursday,
ries for the workers and lack of basic care for the November 6, 2008
Health care aides face difficult job Pleading for Help
with little or no thanks
In support of the many recent letters regarding the
In response to Reader’s View on Nov. 6th, 2009: shortage of Health Care employees, I also wish to
emphasize the urgent need of a solution. As a per-
I share many of Ms. Wozniuk’s views and con- son who works in a local Seniors Care Residence, I
cerns; I, too, am involved with care-giving to our am dismayed and feel a sense of hopelessness due
retired seniors. Foremost, how long must we wait to what we experience on a daily basis.
before the Alberta government decides to step in and
show some care and concern for these elder mem- We must keep in mind that the majority of seniors
bers of our society? In the senior care facilities in a Continuing Care facility are unable to voice
where I have worked, lack of training and poor their feelings due to dementia, Alzheimers, stroke
wages were always an issue. There should be a stan- induced disabilities, etc. The reality of it is, they
dardized (and legally enforced) ratio of care-givers cannot say “I have not had a bath in two weeks.”, or
to residents; monitored by the provincial powers that “It is 9:00 am, nobody has come to change my De-
be. pend since last night at 7:00 pm.” Many of our resi-
dents’ family members rarely come to see them, so
The pay care-givers receive is often on par with they are not aware of the situation, subsequently not
Starbucks and Tim Horton's employees, so it’s no acting as an effective advocate for them.
wonder our young people won’t go to school to be-
come care aides. It is a hard, emotionally and physi- There is not a day that goes by that we do not
cally demanding job with little or no thanks. “work short” in one or more of our departments,
whether it be care, laundry, housekeeping or
Keeping in mind that some day the same politi- kitchen. Ultimately, the spin-off affects staff mo-
cians and administrators who are pinching their pen- rale, contributes to burn-out, injuries and loss of
nies and ignoring this issue could be in the same care productivity. Stress levels become intolerable, and
facility that they are disregarding . . . shouldn’t they our ability to cope and be kind and caring to our
be just a little concerned about how they themselves residents becomes difficult. Circumstances dictate,
will be cared for? Look to your own parents, friends and we are not able to give them the time and care
and neighbours. Would you want them to be treated they require.
like a number, with only a sparse amount of time
given to them by an already overloaded care- It is imperative that our Government address the
giver? Shouldn’t we as caring loving members of contributing factors to these ongoing issues. As has
our families and society as a whole be motivated to repeatedly been suggested, subsidized training, pay
appeal to our government to look into these matters? incentives, and a mandatory acceptable staff to resi-
dent ratio be established to mention a few, would be
The care of our seniors should not be a “for profit a good start.
We as front line staff are pleading for help and
answers. You, as citizens, please support our
plea. One of your loved ones or you yourself may
be affected sooner than you think.
Published in The Medicine Hat News on Saturday,
November 29, 2008 Respectfully submitted,
Published in The Medicine Hat News on
Monday, December 29, 2008
Health care aides in crisis situation You never know - one day one of your loved ones
may become a resident. What kind of care would
In regards to letter in Medicine Hat News Nov. you like provided then?
6/08 “Health Care Aides Worth More,” I completely
agree with the writer. J. Willford
I have worked as an aide in the Health Care field
for many years. We are in a critical situation now, Published in The Medicine Hat News on Saturday,
with staff shortages, lack of training, no minimum November 15, 2008
staff to resident ratios and low wages.
Ensure our seniors have
Are the residents in our retirement homes getting
the care they deserve?
Something needs to be done now. My mother has been in long-term care for about a
year and a half. Visiting her often I have noted:
Eileen Saddlemeyer She lives and dines with nine other residents. All
Medicine Hat need assistance to perform daily tasks such as bath-
ing, dressing and using the toilet. Of this group,
Published in The Medicine Hat News on Saturday, seven are in wheelchairs or a hospital bed. Of the
November 15, 2008 10, six can feed themselves - with coaxing. The
others must be fed by a health care aide.
MLA should see first-hand the Each shift - day and evening - the number of
problems existing in Medicine Hat HCAs to look after this group is only 1.5. A nurse
care homes supervises and dispenses medication at meals and
bedtime to these seniors plus 10 others.
I am in total agreement with Lydia Wozniuk’s let-
ter on “Health Care Aides Worth More.” I an a There has been no staff increase although resi-
health care aide and work short-staffed on a regular dents’ needs have become greater and more time-
basis. The problem in our health care field isn’t nec- consuming. There are too few HCAs. Staff burn-
essarily with the homes but with the government’s out seems inevitable as the demands of the job keep
lack of assistance. increasing.
Just a few of the most needed requirements: Basic training, a reasonable workload and suitable
■ staff-to-resident ratio pay should be the minimum standard for HCA’. In
■ better wages a province as rich as Alberta it is a shock to see that
■ways of getting people to register for the HCAs are the lowest paid in the country.
health care program
It is time to have sufficient numbers of caregivers
I also would like to know why the rest of the prov- to ensure our seniors have the care, respect and dig-
ince never received the $1/hour increase that Ed- nity they deserve in their final years.
monton received. We work just as hard as the staff
in Edmonton. Carole Myers
For years I have supported Mr. Renner (Medicine
Hat MLA). When will he start supporting us? I Published in The Medicine Hat News on Monday,
would like him to come and spend one day working November 17, 2008
with us so he truly knows what we are talking about.
Health care aides provide essential Don’t forget support staff at care
We truly need to salute the health care aides who
I am writing in regards to the letters “Health Care
provide 24/7 care to challenged clients in long-term-
Aides Worth More” and “Health Care Aides in Cri-
We need to be reminded that the senior population
I agree with these letters that more needs to be
is increasing and will continue to do so. Therefore,
done. But one must remember that it is not only the
it is imperative that the availability of health care
aides who make these places run. Without the
aides is sufficient to provide this care. They are es-
“support - staff” there would be no one to cook,
sential caregivers. What would we do without them?
clean and do the laundry for the residents. I feel
that the “support - staff” is being overlooked in this
As members of the community, local and provin-
so-called “crisis situation.” We are running short on
cial governments, we need to provide access to certi-
people to work in these departments as well.
fication for health care aides. We would like to see
the governing body of the health care system pro-
On top of it, there are times that we have to go the
vide/offer incentives and compensation packages
extra mile to help out the aides and take on sort of a
(grants?) to encourage members of the community to
“babysitting” role as well. When the aides are
enrol in these courses.
short- staffed they can’t be everywhere at once and
we end up watching out for the residents which
It is essential that health care aides receive formal
takes time out of our schedule.
training prior to being employed. Many of the chal-
lenged clients have complex diagnosis. Along with
When I became employed at our facility we had
this requirement, there needs to be legislation which
five housekeepers working the floor on weekends
outlines the number of caregivers in relation to cli-
but it has been cut back to three due to staff short-
ents - perhaps a client/staff ratio of 1/7 or 1/8 and
ages. It is unfair that three people are doing the
that this legislation be enforced by governments.
work of five and get paid the same $2/hour weekend
differential that we were paid with five girls on the
Many clients need two - person lifts in their daily
care. This requires more staff.
If we are sick there is no one to call in to replace
Recruitment and staffing is an ongoing problem,
us - the same applies to dietary and laundry.
but unless this area is addressed by the health care
minister, the long-term-care facilities will be in a
Something needs to be done at the government
level to make more people want to come and work
at these facilities. There needs to be more incen-
And, of course, compensation for the job - these
tives such as better wages in all areas of the health
valuable employees need to have wages in line with
care system to ensure the care of our loved ones.
their job responsibilities. This work is labour inten-
We must remember that one day that may be us liv-
sive and the wages should reflect that.
ing in these facilities. How bad will it be then if
nothing gets done now?
Published in The Medicine Hat News on Thursday,
November 27, 2008 Published in The Medicine Hat News on Wednes-
day, December 17, 2008
Education When was the last time
you asked someone to
We have been fortunate to have had several classes
offered in our area this past year, including: join your Union?
Shop Steward Level I
Shop Steward Level II
You and Your Union
Many of the provisions we now
Thanks to Ray White, Dean Lott & Bob Bosa for enjoy and take for granted were
making the classes interesting & fun. Great job!
won after long and difficult
Upcoming Classes: struggles by Steelworkers:
▪ Decent wages
Building Power ▪ Benefits
This course will help you to develop strategies to ▪ Safe working conditions
building bargaining strength
It is difficult to fight for and win
social justice if we only represent
March 2nd & 3rd, 2009 a small segment of society.
Bargaining If you know someone who would
This course will assist members who serve on bar-
like to see their workplace
gaining committees to understand the unionized, please contact
Collective Bargaining process, and prepare our district organizer:
participants to work as part of the negotiating team.
Dates to be determined
Toll Free: 1-888-879-2411 # 2
For all the latest news on Union
activities, be sure to visit the
United Steelworkers’ website at:
If you would like to attend a class Check out “Our Union in Western
please contact your Unit Chair Canada” as well as the
for more information. “Healthcare Workers Council”
4262 - 91A Street
Edmonton, AB Local 1-207
Phone: 780 - 463 - 9070 United Steelworkers Local 1-207
Fax: 780 - 461 - 5020
represents you as an employee of:
Ray White Masterpiece River Ridge
firstname.lastname@example.org Good Samaritan Society
South Country Village
We want you to know that you are a
valued member of our Local. USW
Office Manager represents you on the job and at the
Know your rights!
150 - 2880 Glenmore Ask for a copy of your Collective
Trail SE Agreement. Feel free to contact a
Calgary, AB representative with any questions,
T2C 2E7 concerns, issues or clarification.
Phone: 403 - 279 - 9397
Fax: 403 - 236 - 8617 Steelworkers is the largest industrial
union in Canada. Our strength is in our
Area Supervisor members. You are the Union.
email@example.com Get involved, be a part of the process,
and most of all:
firstname.lastname@example.org BE A PROUD STEELWORKER!