Manitoba looks to hire 400 more staff at personal care homes

The Manitoba government has announced another $16 million to address staffing shortages in personal care homes.

The Progressive Conservative government says the money will be used to recruit and hire 350 health-care aides and 72 nurses.

The money is in addition to $15 million announced in April to boost staffing — including 200 full-time housekeeping staff — and improve cleaning and update information technology.

The funding is in response to an external review into a deadly COVID-19 outbreak in the fall of 2020 at the Maples Personal Care Home in Winnipeg, in which 56 people died.

The review found shortages in staff due to many falling ill, inconsistent cleaning and not enough infection control expertise.

Kathy McPhail, who is overseeing Manitoba’s implementation of the review’s recommendations, said personal care home operators are thrilled for some staffing relief.

“I say to residents, to families and to the public today, it will take time to recruit all of the classifications … but we will get there.”

Enticing people to work at PCHs

McPhail acknowledged the labour shortage will create some challenges. So she urged every person listening to her address Friday outside Deer Lodge Centre to encourage people in their lives to pursue a career in health care.

“We’re trying to create … an environment in personal care homes that is attractive and supportive of staff, family and residents,” she said.

The hundreds of new staff are expected to afford more bedside care for every PCH resident.

Manitoba is planning to increase the current standard of 3.6 hours a day to 3.8 hours — an increase of 12 minutes a day, long-term care minister Scott Johnston said.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon speaks outside Deer Lodge Centre at a government announcement in support of bolstering the workforce at the province’s personal care homes. (Ian Froese/CBC)

He said the government would look to increase the hours of care beyond that. Long-term care advocates in Manitoba have pushed for 4.1 hours a day.

The potential for a larger workforce is welcome news to Sharon Wilms, the CEO of The Convalescent Home of Winnipeg, but she said the homes themselves are in need of an upgrade. 

Their facility has 15 rooms with four beds apiece.

“As you can imagine with four people sharing a room, a curtain did very little to prevent the spread of COVID in our facility.” 

Wilms said 22 residents lost their lives as a result of one outbreak.

“And we still haven’t recovered from that.”

If the government wants to hire more care home staff, the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Manitoba said the province could start by offering a new contract to its existing long-term care workers. Though negotiations are ongoing, the workers have gone five years without a wage increase.

CUPE held a protest on Thursday at the same location as Friday’s announcement.

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