MGEU rally to raise awareness of issues home care workers face

The union representing Manitoba's public-sector home care workers will rally outside the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's office this morning to raise awareness of concerns that are echoed in an audit of the province's home care system.

Winnipeggers have to wait an average of 37 days for home care, audit report finds

Some concerns about Manitoba's home care system, raised by Manitoba's auditor general in a new report, make sense to Katherine Peters of Comforts of Home Care Inc., a private company that delivers home care. 1:33

The union representing Manitoba's public-sector home care workers will rally outside the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's office this morning to raise awareness of concerns that are echoed in an audit of the province's home care system.

The auditor general's report says Winnipeggers are having to wait an average of 37 days for home care — a service that is supposed to help clients stay out of hospitals and personal care homes.

"There is no standard for whether it should be 10 days, 20 days, 30 days," Auditor General Norm Ricard said on Wednesday, when the report was released.

The Manitoba Government and General Employees' Union is holding a rally outside the WRHA's Main Street office on Thursday morning to draw attention to the concerns that home care workers in the public sector face.

"We're concerned with some of the auditor's findings and a lot of the findings actually just echo what we've been saying — the task times is an issue, scheduling is an issue," MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky told CBC News.

Gawronsky said, for example, home care workers are often required to work 9½ hours a day but they get paid for only eight hours.

She added that an aging population means the problems that the home care system currently has could get worse.

"I think it's imperative upon the RHAs [regional health authorities] as well as government to anticipate what's coming in the future and to ensure that we've got consistent care is being provided, and the way to do that is to ensure you've got permanent full-time staff," Gawronsky said.

The MGEU notes that home care workers have been without a contract for more than two years.

'We need each other,' says private operator

Some of the auditor general's concerns and recommendations make sense to those who deliver home care in the private sector.

Katherine Peters, president of Winnipeg-based Comforts of Home Care Inc., says Manitoba has some of the best home care benefits in Canada, but the delivery system could use improvements.

She said both the public and private sectors need to work together toward providing better services.

"It needs to not be, 'Oh well, we can never refer to you because we're public and you're for-profit.' That whole mindset needs to change," she said.

"We need each other, and we need to go back and forth and we need to give people the services they really need."

Peters said the current average wait time of 37 days in Winnipeg is a problem, as wait times are a critical issue among the elderly.

"I had a 96-year-old man tell me, 'I was put on a waiting list, they told me it's going to be months.' He says, 'I'm 96. I don't have time to wait,'" she said.

"People who need help, they don't call because they need help in a few months."

The biggest challenge facing both public and private sectors is staffing, Peters said, noting that there is not enough people who are qualified to work in the home care field.

She agreed that an aging population is creating a growing demand. Peters said she started her company in September 2005 with six staff, "and today we have well over 260 caregivers."


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