Respecting community health workers means respecting our seniors

November 16, 2016

Earlier this month the Vancouver Sun published an article examining injury rates for home support workers, and the statistics are appalling. Home support workers are injured at twice the provincial average, and workdays lost to injury have increased 25 per cent since 2012.

Nearly 94 per cent of those injured are women, and these injuries are caused mostly by working directly with their clients.

This is unacceptable. These workers have chosen to care for some of BC’s most vulnerable citizens, but cuts in funding have forced them to do the same work in less time. Our members working in home support have been saying for years that they are expected to care for more patients than ever before, in the same work day. Home support workers get into this profession because they care, but they end up putting themselves at risk in order to do their job. They get hurt.                          

The article mentions there needs to be additional training. We agree that more courses for community health workers is a good idea, but education isn't helpful if you don't have the time or the tools to accomplish what you've been trained to do. Injuries happen because there isn't enough funding to provide for time to move clients safely, or bring in a second worker, or provide protective equipment. These injuries are the direct result of funding cuts to home support agencies around the province.

And yet, these worker injuries cost the system in lost time and insurance claims – that doesn't seem to me to be a good use of healthcare dollars.

No injury to any worker is acceptable.

Pushing workers who care for seniors and people with disabilities to such high rates of injury is shameful. Respecting community health workers means respecting our seniors. The conditions of work are the conditions of care.

Seniors deserve better, and the funding needs to be there to make it happen.

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