3 Reasons the Cold Lake Points West Living Lock-Out is Important for Patient Care
Friends of Medicare supporting the staff on December 28, 2016
With the holidays behind us, many of us were able to reconnect and refresh with family and friends.
For the staff and patients at the for-profit supportive living facility run by Points West Living in Cold Lake, those holiday traditions were disrupted.
Despite extreme cold weather warnings in Cold Lake, the AUPE-represented staff were given lockout notice and sent out of the building on Friday, December 16 at 8:30 a.m. Facing freezing elements and separation from their residents, the staff remained united in their attempt to secure their first contract despite the adversity. Family members and residents approached the picket lines with mitts & snacks along with much-needed encouragement. As of this writing the weather has gotten warmer, but the lock-out continues. Here’s why patient advocates should be paying attention:
1. Staff working conditions are patient care conditions
Privatization in continuing care has created inequality among caregivers and support staff. Operators looking to cut corners and maximize profits or executive bonuses have driven down working conditions, wages, and benefits at many private homes - both for-profit and not-for-profit. This has many staff feeling undervalued, and leads to high turnover and burnout. When staff successfully seek fairer treatment in line with their training, education and experience, they improve staff morale and reduce turnover, leading to an improved care experience.
Photo credit: AUPE. Locked out staff brave the elements
2. This is about more than fair pay for important work
The staff have proposed language in their contract that will implement processes to deal with a serious problem – scheduling and staff replacement. Providers in Cold Lake and across the province often neglect to replace staff who are away due to illness, vacation and other reasons, leaving residents shortchanged and staff running off their feet. Staff in Cold Lake have told us this is a daily occurrence, and it’s not uncommon to have multiple absent staff not being replaced. Continuing care regulations do not address this problem either, nor has the government announced plans to tackle this issue. If the staff in Cold Lake are successful, they will help build momentum for other workers through Alberta to call for similar improvements.
3. Cold Lake Points West Living is not an isolated problem
To varying degrees, these problems exist at private care homes across the province. The previous government created an under-regulated system that encourages these issues. Albertans are denied the right to know the details of the million-dollar capital and operating funds awarded to providers like Points West Living, and there are no measures in place to ensure that one hundred percent of the funding intended for caregivers actually goes towards hiring and paying staff. We see a clear case to stop the practice of opening new private facilities, and we should be working instead towards phasing out the private sector in continuing care.
What can be done?
Visit the AUPE website Points West Living Probe and sign up for updates
AUPE has put together a website on Points West Living that is a great resource with newsletters updating people about the business practices of Points West Living. We expect more news as the dispute continues so be sure to sign up for their updates.
Contact the Premier and Cabinet Ministers
The staff are encouraging supporters to contact the Premier, Cabinet Ministers & Opposition members to let them know this situation is unacceptable. Positive changes to our continuing care system are needed, and our government should think twice about awarding grants for new facilities to providers like Points West Living who create these problems. There is a draft letter online here to get you started, but remember it's always helpful to add your own take on why the staff should be supported in their fight for better care.
Download and sign the Friends of Medicare petition for public long-term care
We are collecting signatures on a petition calling for the provincial government to make good on their promises to open 2,000 public long-term care beds, and end the practice of approving new private spaces. This situation in Cold Lake is yet another example of how private care is failing Alberta patients and staff. Alberta's legislature requires old fashioned written petitions, so please download it, print it, and send it to us with as many signatures as you can gather!