Hospitals could overcrowd if care co-ordinators vote to strike

Care coordinators who work for the Waterloo-Wellington Community Care Access Centre (WW- CCAC) have been without a contract since Mar. 31, 2014, and will vote on a new contract Thursday night.
Nurses who co-ordinate home care and long term care in 10 communities across the province have been without a contract since March 2014. (CBC)

Local hospitals could experience overcrowding if some members of the Ontario Nurses' Association (ONA) vote to reject a contract offer and go on strike Friday morning. 

Care co-ordinators who work for 10 community care access centres, including the Waterloo-Wellington Community Care Access Centre (W-W CCAC), have been without a contract since Mar. 31, 2014. They will vote on a new contract Thursday night.

The ONA's bargaining team is recommending that its members reject the offer, which could prompt about 250 care co-ordinators in the Region of Waterloo, Wellington County, the City of Guelph and parts of Grey County to walk off the job.  

Negotiations stalled over wage increases

The ONA has been negotiating on behalf of care coordinators with the 10 different CCACs across the province. It entered into a three-day mediation session on Jan. 17, but talks came to a halt three days later.

"When it came to money, that's where things did not go well," said Vicki McKenna, First Vice-President of the ONA. "The employer...provided us with an offer on the Monday, we responded to that and they decided they didn't want to negotiate or discuss anymore and they left."

The ONA would not say how much of a wage increase it is asking for, but said care co-ordinators should be paid on par with their counterparts who work for hospitals and long term care homes. 

Representatives with the W-W CCAC dispute the claim that they left the bargaining table or gave up on negotiations. 

"The CCAC has always been keeping the door open and is willing to speak with the ONA," said Andrea Martin, Senior Director of Patient Services with the CCAC. "We did not walk away from the table."

However, Martin does agree that negotiations stalled when the conversation turned to wages and benefits. 

Strike could result in overcrowded hospitals

Community Care Access Centres are a point of access for individuals seeking home or long term care. Care co-ordinators are employed by the CCACs to connect clients with the services they need, whether that be weekly visits from a registered nurse or a room in a long term care home. 

In the case of a strike, individuals receiving care through the W-W CCAC would continue to be cared for, but anyone who needed a change in care could be affected. 

Local hospitals would be severely affected by a strike, because care co-ordinators are the ones responsible for getting people out of hospital beds and either back into their own homes or into long term care facilities, McKenna said. 

"Most of our hospitals are over-capacity," she said. "They have more patients than beds...and our care co-ordinators are the ones that are make sure that those people can go home safely."

Care coordinators with the W-W CCAC work in Cambridge Memorial Hospital, Grand River Hospital, Groves Memorial Community Hospital, Guelph General Hospital, Homewood Health Centre, North Wellington Health Care Corporation, St. Joseph's Health Centre and St. Mary's General Hospital.

Contingency plan should minimize impact of strike

The W-W CCAC says it has a contingency plan that will minimize the impacts of a work stoppage, should one occur. 

Non-unionized staff will take responsibility for moving patients to the appropriate care setting, said Martin. "So, if it's a long term care site, we will go through the application effectively and efficiently as we possibly can with the staff we have on site."

However, Martin admits that the contingency plan will not be as efficient as the current system and movement of patients out of hospitals could be delayed.