Nfld. & Labrador

Long-term-care workers protest staffing levels at St. John's homes

Workers in long-term-care homes in St. John's say they've been running on fumes throughout the pandemic, and are getting burned out due to low staffing levels.

Workers say they're unable to take vacation, being asked to work on days off

Workers at the Agnes Pratt Home and St. Luke's protest their working conditions during their lunch break on Wednesday. (CBC)

Workers in long-term-care homes in St. John's say they've been running on fumes throughout the pandemic, and are getting burned out due to low staffing levels.

Staff at St. Luke's and the Agnes Pratt Home staged a demonstration during their lunch break on Wednesday to protest their working conditions.

The workers said they've been denied vacation time, have been asked to work on days off, and worked shifts without a full staffing complement.

"It's beyond a breaking point, actually. These staff, they're tired of being tired," said their union leader, Jerry Earle, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees.

Earle said staff members are sick of their phones ringing during their days off. In some cases, he said, people have been mandated to work on days off, rather than having it left up to them.

Long-term-care homes faced stiff restrictions during the height of the pandemic in the province. Families were not allowed in to visit their loved ones. Staffing levels have long been a complaint among long-term-care homes, and family members would often provide care to loved ones that staff members didn't have time for. 

Workers say they've been denied vacation and left to work shifts without a proper complement of staffing. (CBC)

During the pandemic, Earle said, the lack of that extra care provided by families became a stressor for workers.

He credited the provincial government for taking steps to train more staff. The province added extra capacity to several health-care classes at College of the North Atlantic campuses in February.

But Earle said help is needed now.

"That remedy is nine to 18 months down the road," he said. "The issues we have today — there's staff here who can't get vacation."

The workers are calling on the province to meet with them to develop policies that could alleviate the stress they face until more staff can be trained and hired.

Earle said while staffing levels in Newfoundland and Labrador are on par with those in other Canadian provinces, high levels of COVID-19 casualties in long-term-care homes around the country provide evidence that it's not enough.

"We've seen what happened on the mainland. That tells us there's not sufficient numbers of staff."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Heather Gillis

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