Staffing Personal Care Homes - Time for a New Normal
Why do health care workers work at multiple facilities? It may be that workers have to cobble together multiple part time or causal positions to earn a living? It may be that wages for some health care workers are inadequate to allow them to work at only one facility?
Policy makers need to understand their decisions impact people. They also need to be accountable and open to public scrutiny for their decisions.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the perils of staff working at more than one health care setting, especially in long term care (LTC) facilities such as personal care homes (PCH). From an infection control point of view this increases the risk of spreading disease between high risk vulnerable residents.
Why did it take a pandemic to realize working at multiple health care facilities is a bad idea?
The deadly impact of COVID-19 demonstrates the degree of risk our loved ones experience in their most vulnerable states. The fact that Ontario and Quebec had to call in the military to help staff their LTC facilities is a testament to how grave the situation is.
It is encouraging that the MB Government announced that as of May 1, 2020 health care workers can only work at one private or public PCH at a time.
Shared Health emphasizes that this is to protect our loved ones (Shared Health Q & A, April 29, 2020)
Why are employees required to work in only one PCH?
Across Canada, a significant proportion of reported COVID-19 deaths have affected residents of long term care facilities. The risk that this virus poses to this vulnerable population is extremely high, so a Public Health Order was made to require licensed PCHs to limit the number of employees who work in multiple PCHs. This is being done to further protect our residents.
This is a good first step, but does it go far enough?
The directive is temporary and will be re-evaluated in six months. The timing for re-evaluation is interesting. By that time, we will be at the start flu season and it is unlikely a COVID vaccine will be available. This could lead to a significant “double whammy” of flu and COVID. It would be prudent for this directive to become the new norm.
It is unclear why this directive does not apply to those who work in both acute care and PCH facilities? The same risks of spreading COVID between facilities would seem to apply?
It may be due to health care staffing shortages that would result from expanding the directive to working at only one health facility, including acute care facilities.
Why do health care workers work at multiple facilities? It may be that workers have to coble together multiple part time or causal positions to earn a living? It may be that wages for some health care workers are inadequate to allow them to work at only one facility?
Part of the solution to preventing the spread of COVID-19, or the next new germ, would be to understand why health care workers work at multiple facilities.
I would argue that we make decision based on what is best for patients/PCH residents and it may be time to rethink how we staff acute and long term care facilities.
Excuse the paraphrased cliché -