Half of B.C. care aides ‘likely’ to leave jobs: union survey

Click to play video: 'New poll finds care workers are feeling increasingly stressed and burned out by the job'
New poll finds care workers are feeling increasingly stressed and burned out by the job
A new poll of care aides done for the Hospital Employees' Union found they're overworked, over-stressed and that nearly half of those surveyed have considered leaving their job. Richard Zussman reports – Oct 18, 2023

B.C.’s largest health-care union said many of its care aid workers are considering leaving their jobs in the next two years.

Forty-eight per cent of the 800 Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) care aid workers surveyed said due to their work experience over the last three years, they are likely to leave their jobs in the next two.

More than half of the care aides surveyed said they don’t have the time to meet patient care needs and 82 per cent reported suffering from workplace violence or aggression.

“This poll underscores what we have known for years. Many of our care home residents do not receive the attention they need and that our members want to provide,” HEU secretary-business manager Meena Brisard said.

“The situation also takes a huge toll on care staff. When workers are rushed off their feet trying to meet residents’ needs, they put their own health at risk. The experiences of care aides working through the COVID-19 pandemic have made this situation even worse.”

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Brisard said care aides and community health workers are working short-staffed and are struggling to meet the complex care needs of residents who live with dementia and other mental health conditions.

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Care aides, also known as health care assistants, provide the bulk of personal care to nursing home residents, home care clients, and, increasingly, to hospital patients.

Forty-five per cent reported that they have had to take time off work due to a workplace injury and violence, which include being struck, scratched and spit on.

According to the union, the province has taken important steps to improve working conditions in senior care with initiatives like the Health Career Access Program, which has led to hiring of thousands of new care aides and by taking steps during the pandemic to “top up” wages paid by most home operators.

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The Health Career Access Program was created to streamline education and hiring of health-care support workers, who may have no previous health care experience.

But now, the union is calling on the B.C. government to uphold its 2020 election commitment of restoring standard wages, benefits and working conditions that the previous BC Liberal government dismantled.

“We have inherited from the previous government a fragmented long-term care sector with a wide range of working and caring conditions. And as B.C.’s seniors’ advocate, legislative committees and others have pointed out, there is a lack of accountability for public funding that is intended for front-line care,” Brisard said.

Asked about the poll’s findings, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix focused instead on wage levelling and bringing workers back into the health-care system.

“We continue to address concerns,” Dix said.

“The B.C. Nurses’ Union and Hospital Employees’ Union asked for extra security and we added hundreds of new positions.”

HEU represents more than 60,000 health care workers across B.C., including about 28,000 who work with seniors in long-term care and other care settings.

Oct. 18 is Health Care Assistant Day, designated by the provincial government to recognize the contribution of care aides and community health workers to quality care.

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