Home-care workers going into long-term homes with COVID outbreaks need proper PPE: union

Some Winnipeg home-care workers are being moved to work in long-term care homes experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, but the union that represents them wants assurances those workers will have enough personal protective equipment.

Echoing a move made earlier in the pandemic, some home-care services will be suspended as the workers move to support staff in personal care homes, Shared Health Chief Nursing Officer Lanette Siragusa announced Wednesday.

“The effort is part of our ongoing planning and prioritization to ensure that our health-care workers are deployed to the areas of greatest need,” she said at a Wednesday news conference.

“We are very grateful to all the staff who continue to show great dedication and flexibility and commitment to the patients, the residents and the clients that we serve.”

There are COVID-19 outbreaks at 27 of the 39 care homes and assisted living centres in Winnipeg, according to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

The deadliest outbreak at a Manitoba care home is now at Maples Long Term Care Home, after 11 deaths were reported there on Saturday and seven on Sunday

The president of Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 204, which represents home-care workers in Winnipeg, says members have concerns about entering such high-risk work environments.

“They’re concerned that they haven’t worked in a personal care home. It’s different than working in someone’s house. They’re concerned about getting the proper PPE,” Debbie Boissonneault told CBC News.

“They know people in personal care homes that are workers have contracted COVID-19, and are they bringing it out of the personal care homes and bringing it into the community. There’s a big concern.”

Siragusa didn’t say how many home care workers are being redeployed in Winnipeg or how many clients receiving home care will be affected.

Boissonneault says union members are also concerned for home-care clients who don’t have family that can step in to fill the gap.

“If they don’t have someone coming in, they still need services. That’s why they have home care,” she said.

However, Siragusa says those who are most in need will receive care.

“Any and all clients who require life-sustaining services or anyone who’s in need of urgent services through home care will continue to receive those services,” she said.