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New Brunswick long-term care homes short staffed during COVID-19

Click to play video: 'Special care home association calls for additional funding' Special care home association calls for additional funding
WATCH: The association representing special care homes is calling on the province to provide more money and to help recruit and retain staff. Megan Yamoah reports – Jan 20, 2021

During the pandemic, every industry has been struggling with a shortage of staff, and Enhanced Living Oromocto is no exception.

“I’m really concerned about burnout with our staff, said Alyssa Hinchey, supervisor of Enhanced Living Oromocto, a long term care home with 56 residents and 63 staff.

Read more: Visitation restrictions in B.C. long-term care homes could ease by mid-March: province

The New Brunswick Special Care Home Association said it has been unsuccessful at attracting new part-time staff due to low wages and concerns about COVID.

At the privately owned facility, the starting wage for a part-time personal support worker is $14 an hour.

“CERB has impacted our employee situation. It wasn’t very difficult for people to say, ‘Well, you know what? I can stay home,'” said Jan Seely, president of the association.

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A full roster of staff and the continuity of care with front line workers is especially important for residents like Michael Macintyre, who can no longer have in-person visits with family.

Click to play video: 'Nova Scotia withheld $229K in funding from long-term care homes over empty beds during COVID-19' Nova Scotia withheld $229K in funding from long-term care homes over empty beds during COVID-19
Nova Scotia withheld $229K in funding from long-term care homes over empty beds during COVID-19 – Jan 19, 2021

“Routine is essentially the most important because that’s what builds trust,” said Erynn Bailey, director of care at Enhanced Living Oromocto.

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“I had to lean on the staff to do the things that I would do as a mom, which was to give him a hug, tell him I loved him,” said Jean Macintyre, the parent of a resident.

“He used to see his mom three times a week, and now he sees her through the window,” Hinchey added.

Even with increased cleaning, screening and safety protocols, staff said the fear of bringing COVID-19 into the workplace is limiting them once they clock out.

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“This is my family here, and if I brought it in, I would be very upset,” Hinchey said.

Read more: Weeks-long COVID-19 outbreak at Saint John long-term care facility continues to grow

The New Brunswick Special Care Home Association represents 400 care homes with 7,000 clients and 5,000 staff, and it says hundreds of positions are available.

It is now calling on the Department of Finance and Social Development for funding to cover operational costs and attract young people to the field.

“When I look at the way we responded to COVID-19 and the action that happened so quickly and the innovation and the discussions that are happening, we just need to take that same type of response and apply it to long term care,” Seely said.

“I think that things would be better if people would feel appreciated, not just because people say thank you, but because in their paycheques, we say thank you,” Macintyre added.

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