The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) is laying out how it intends to fill its home care worker shortage, amid recent criticism it left a dying patient without the care they were promised in their final days.
The WRHA is launching more paid training to get hundreds of uncertified home care attendants in the field by summer.
Inside a WRHA classroom in downtown Winnipeg, course instructor Hardeep Deol operates an overhead lift for Elizabeth Vokey’s safe transfer from bed to wheelchair — one of the tasks students like Vokey will learn to do for others in their training to become uncertified home care attendants, otherwise known as home care attendant level ones.
“I’ve always wanted to be a health care aide,” Vokey said. “Unfortunately, because of circumstance, I was not able to go to school.”
The cost of education was the biggest barrier preventing her from signing up earlier, she said. Vokey is making the switch after nearly four years working a home support position with the WRHA.
She’s one of 11 people who began their month-long paid program on Monday. It starts with two weeks of in-class learning, followed by two weeks of community practicum.
The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority wants 200 trainees ready by the end of June, with an overall goal of 300 thereafter, Bria Foster said. The job pays $19 an hour, slightly less than certified home care attendants.
“They’re doing anything a home care attendant that is certified would do in the community as well, so they’re helping with medication management, personal care, lifts, transfers, respites, and also just the household maintenance and laundry and also meal preparation as well,” Foster, who serves as the WRHA’s community area director, told media on Monday.
“They’re trained to home care standards and able to provide equal service as our certified individuals that are coming in.”
Anyone 18 and older with a minimum of Grade 10 education, who passes a criminal record check and with experience caring for seniors or those with cognitive or physical impairments can apply.
“(The program)’s been tried and tested already. We ran it in the early 2000s, and we still have … uncertified staff that we’ve trained in house, working in homes today,” Foster said.
Eric de Schepper welcomes the WRHA’s move.
De Schepper went public last month about the home care he says failed his dying partner. He said he hopes graduates are assigned to cases they can handle.
“I’m confident that the WRHA means it well and tries to resolve a rather acute and and complicated situation,” de Schepper said. “I look at it as a very positive development.”
But time will tell, he said, whether the health authority can rebuild his trust and whether the program will be successful.
The WRHA needs to fill about 250 to 340 home care positions to close its 21-per cent vacancy rate.
They’re holding a recruitment event on Saturday at ACCESS St. Boniface (170 Goulet St.) from noon to 4 p.m. Foster said the WRHA is prepared to do on-site interviews if candidates show up with a CV that meets their requirements.