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Improve home care by improving work terms

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Re: Home-care client fears changes to system (Mar. 3).

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As president of the union that represents more than 5,000 Manitoba home-care workers, and as a health-care aide myself, I'd first like to say our hearts go out to Tom Landy and his family.

No one understands the degree of intimacy and importance of the worker-client relationship quite like those workers who come into his home and assist him every day.

Réal Cloutier, the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's vice-president for long-term and community care, was right in saying that equivalent-full-time (EFT) positions were implemented to address serious recruitment and retention problems within the home-care workforce.

Trained home-care workers who spend their lives caring for Manitoba's sick and elderly in their own homes have not had permanent employment and do not have sick time or any benefits to speak of.

And though it is far more cost-effective to keep clients in their own homes as long as possible, home-care workers often leave for jobs in personal care homes because these jobs are permanent and the compensation is better.

Thanks to EFTs, home-care workers will at least now be able to predict how much their next paycheque will be. And thanks to workforce improvements such as EFTs, our home-care system will ultimately become stable enough to build and foster those essential worker-client relationships.

Our workers knew this systemic change would have its challenges. They see first-hand how changes in policy affect the daily lives and well-being of clients such as Mr. Landy.

This is why we recently launched a radio campaign calling attention to another policy the employer implemented along with EFTs.

In the last few years, workers have had to fit more clients into their day and spend less time with each of them. For instance, the standard amount of time to bathe a client has been reduced to 25 minutes from 45 minutes.

This has left many home-care clients feeling like just another number squeezed into a tight schedule. It has left home-care workers feeling unable to do the job they love -- enter a client's home, get to know them and their needs, and then provide for those needs with due care.

Over and over, the MGEU has approached the employer to express our members' concerns, but so far they have yet to address the problems.

We will continue in our efforts to have the employer address the critical issue of reduced task times, and applaud Mr. Landy for standing up for his right to stable and dignified home-care support.

MICHELLE GAWRONSKY

President, Manitoba Government & General Employees' Union

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 6, 2014 A13

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Updated on Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 6:46 AM CST: adds link

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