Manitoba to ban health-care employees from working at multiple sites

Manitoba is about to become the latest province to ban health-care workers from working at more than one facility — a move intended to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in personal care homes.

Move intended to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks at personal care homes

Paramedics transport a patient from Maison Herron, a long-term care home in the Montreal suburb of Dorval, Que., on April 11. Provinces are trying to restrict care-home workers to one facility to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

Manitoba is about to become the latest province to ban health-care workers from working at more than one facility — a move intended to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks in personal care homes.

Starting Friday, Manitoba health-care workers will only be allowed to work in one care home or other institution, Shared Health systems integration lead Lanette Siragusa said Monday.

For weeks, she said the province intended to make this change, especially as personal care homes in Ontario, Quebec and other provinces have been hit hard by COVID-19.

Manitoba has been working to co-ordinate the move with 127 personal-care homes and is finally ready to make the change, she said.

It will apply to both privately run and publicly run care homes. It does not apply to acute-care facilities like hospitals, Shared Health said.

"Staff in nursing and support services who typically work at multiple personal care homes will be limited to working at a single site," Siragusa said during a conference call with reporters.

"We've seen across Canada that a significant portion of COVID-19 deaths are related to residents of long-term care facilities. Specifically, in Ontario, the care-home residents account for more than 70 per cent of the province's deaths, and in Quebec, that number is closer to 80 per cent."

Unions representing health-care workers were told late last week.

"The provincial government says that as of May 1, 2020, staff will have to work at only one site," CUPE 204 members were told in a union memo dated April 24.

CUPE 204 president Debbie Boissoneault said she supports the change to reduce the possibility of an outbreak in a Manitoba personal care home.

"We don't want it to be spread from one place to another," she said Monday in an interview.

The province still has to determine how workers who cobbled together two or more part-time jobs at multiple facilities will get paid, she said.

"The employer is saying they will try to make everyone whole. This means trying to provide you extra hours at the site at which you choose to work," CUPE 204 members were told on April 24.

"If you have more than a full-time [equivalent hours] between your sites, they are also trying to figure out how they will handle that. CUPE has stated members should not lose income during this process."

Boissoneault said the province must ensure workers receive more training so they can work more hours in one facility, blaming the province for creating "a monster" by replacing full-time jobs with what she described as precarious part-time positions.

"We have been advocating for years to create more full-time jobs in health care, to avoid so many workers in part-time positions scattered throughout the system," she said.

Siragusa said the province has been working with care homes and the unions to ensure as little work is interrupted as possible. 

"The priority will be on ensuring that those staff who had the most direct, prolonged and close contact with residents are assigned to work at a single site for at least the next six months," she said. "This is a significant shift."

Shared Health will work with staff to determine where they work most often and try to keep them at that home, Siragusa said.