Parkview Place workers facing burnout, unsafe conditions, union says
The union filed a grievance, demanding more personal protective equipment and the hiring of more staff
The union representing staff at Parkview Place personal care home filed a grievance over what it describes as unsafe working conditions during the worst COVID-19 outbreak at a Manitoba care home, which has infected dozens of employees and residents.
"We are beyond an emergency, and staff are completely overwhelmed and frightened for themselves, their families, and the residents they care for," said Shannon McAteer, the union's health care coordinator.
As of Oct. 14, 67 residents and 22 staff members at the Winnipeg care home had contracted the virus, and nine residents had died, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 2039 said in a statement.
"It is clear that staff are contracting COVID-19 at work, and we need every safety precaution in place at all times," McAteer said.
Union representatives met with management at the personal care home on Wednesday to demand all staff in COVID-19 units be provided with N95 masks, which previously were only provided following a nurse's risk assessment.
After the union filed their grievance, management agreed to begin providing N95 masks to those employees, the union said.
At a news conference on Thursday, Manitoba's Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said staff should have necessary personal protective equipment, but N95 masks are not required except during "aerosol generating medical procedures."
Although he acknowledged the situation at the care home is "concerning," Roussin said there is nothing he can point to that would explain why the outbreak at Parkview Place has been so much worse than at any other facility in the province.
"We knew in the first wave that we have to do whatever we can to keep the virus out of these situations, because once it's in, we could see transmission easily, and severe outcomes in this population," Roussin said.
Parkview Place has also offered a $2 per hour premium for staff. The extra pay is retroactive to Sept. 15 and will last until the outbreak at the care home is declared over.
"However, that premium does not negate the responsibility of the employer to provide a safe working environment and permanent improved compensation for all staff," the union said.
The outbreak is leading to exhaustion among staff members, who are sometimes unable to take breaks due to a shortage of employees, as increasing numbers of workers have been forced to self-isolate due to exposure to COVID-19, the union said. The union is also demanding Parkview Place hire more people to make up for the shortage.
The province loosened regulations preventing personal care home staff from working in more than one facility, to allow staff from other sites to transfer over to Parkview Place. Workers leaving Parkview to work at another facility are still required to self-isolate for 14 days before going back to work, Roussin said.
Although he hasn't personally visited the facility, Roussin said public health officials, as well as the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, are helping.
"There's a lot of hands on deck at Parkview right now," he said.
In order to stop the spread of the virus, the focus needs to be on identifying and isolating cases, universal use of personal protective equipment, and staff members not coming to work while sick, Roussin said.
Government insists it's doing all it can
The outbreak, and issues of staffing, at Parkview Place was the subject of another tense exchange in the Manitoba legislature Thursday.
In question period, both Manitoba NDP Leader Wab Kinew and the NDP's health critic Uzoma Asagwara asked the Tory government to commit to bringing in more staff and resources to deal with the outbreak.
"Residents and their families deserve answers and they deserve a plan as to how they are going to keep residents safe," Asagwara said.
Health Minister Cameron Friesen dismissed claims that his government had not done enough to prevent such an outbreak.
Following question period, he told reporters that Revera, the company that runs the home, now has a doctor on site full-time, and that administrators are on site 24 hours a day.
"There are incredible resources being marshaled every day to respond," he said. "No one likes where things are at right now and we will continue to respond with great care."
He also said that Parkview is trying very hard to communicate well with families of residents.
"This is not an easy position for families to be and they're looking for answers," he said.
"I would say this to them: we're doing everything that can be done to keep the people inside that personal care home safe."
With files from Rachel Bergen