A staff recruitment and retention problem at a Vernon extended care facility was the focus of a one-hour street-side demonstration Monday.
Close to 20 staff members at Good Samaritan Heron Grove, on 20th Street, all members of the Hospital Employees Union, took to the street outside the facility to demonstrate to their employer they’re tired of the issues facing them and the facility which opened in February 2007. They were supported by family, members of other unions and a number of vehicle horn honks every few minutes.
“We are out here today to send a message to our employer (Good Samaritan Canada),” said Julie Heal, a health care aide at Heron Grove since the facility opened, and a member of the facility’s union bargaining committee. “We love our residents and we work hard to make sure they get the care they need everyday.
“But to give quality care, you need quality jobs. We have a staff recruitment and retention problem here at Heron Grove.”
None of the residents at Heron Grove were affected by Monday’s demonstration.
Similar events were also held Monday at Good Samaritan Canada facilities in Penticton, Salmon Arm and Gibsons. Demonstrations are also slated to be held in Delta and New Westminster Tuesday.
Heal said Heron Grove staff is “constantly training new employees just to see them walk out the door for a better paying job down the road.”
“It’s a problem because it means we’re often working short-staffed,” she said. “We’re frustrated.”
Staff have also expressed concerns about wages, job security and the lack of a collective bargaining agreement.
The last contract expired March 31, 2018. Negotiations on a new deal began May 2, 2018. Two days of talks are slated this week, Wednesday and Thursday. No mediator has been appointed.
“We aren’t here to talk about specific proposals at the bargaining table,” said Heal of Monday’s demonstration. “We are sending a message to our employer to come to the table with some solutions that will support recruiting new staff and retaining their experienced caregivers.”
Good Samaritan Canada and Good Samaritan Society director of communications and media relations Shirley Nowicki said the employer is listening.
“They’re in their full right to have their voice heard and the demonstrations are part of that process,” said Nowicki. “We respect what they’re doing. We want to hear what they’re saying.”
Staff recruitment, said Nowicki, is a challenge in all areas of health care in the province. She said care providers across the province are having difficulty with recruitment.
“The B.C. Care Providers Association, who we are a member of, is the leading voice that represents non-government providers for seniors care, and they’re having talks with all levels of government to address recruitment issues,” she said. “There are definitely challenges. We are aware of that.”
Nowicki said she couldn’t speak to how negotiations are going, but did say Good Samaritan Canada “is committed to bargaining in good faith and seeking an agreement that is responsible and sustainable for all of us.”’
“The most important thing that we’re looking at is ensuring we continue to provide quality care – and we are – with our residents, and the care of our staff and our employees,” said Nowicki.