Letter to the Minister of Health and MLA - Charise Bull, CCA (October, 2020)
Dear Minister of Health, Jim Reiter and MLA, Doug Steele,
I am a Continuing Care Assistant (CCA) presently working at The Meadows in Swift Current. We have one of the first “home like” facilities operating in Saskatchewan. This building and the way it is organized is amazing. It’s a comfortable home like setting which makes transitioning to long term care much easier for our residents. The meals that are prepared are homemade and fresh. The only thing that is missing from this amazing building is adequate staffing. I currently work in a permanent full-time 12 hour position. I have been at The Meadows since it opened. My duties include tending to residents basic hygiene needs, social needs, mobility needs, cooking, cleaning, laundry, baking, and monitoring resident care needs, as well as, responding to them when they require assistance throughout my shift. We have 10 residents per house with 2 CCA’s working. One 12 hour and one 8 hour. This means that 4 hours of my shift I am left totally alone to meet the needs of our 10 residents. During this time, I try to ensure that all their needs have been met while prepping, cooking, serving, feeding, doing dishes, and cleaning the kitchen during meal time. We are often rushed through all the duties of our day because we have so much on our plates. Put yourself in our shoes for a minute. Just think of all we have to do. If resident A needs to use the washroom I have to turn my potatoes off (cause I don’t want them to boil over) and take that resident to the washroom. If the resident is a total lift and it might take 20 minutes which puts our meals behind. Or I have to say “I’m sorry, you are going to have to wait because I have to make supper”. Neither option is helpful to quality of care. During the 8 hours when both staff members are present, we find ourselves rushing through resident care just so we have time to get a meal prepared. During those 4 hours, I am doing the job of two and getting paid one wage.
We are severely understaffed and CCA’s are experiencing caregiver burnout at an alarming rate. I am so physically and mentally exhausted at the end of a shift that I sometimes go home and cry because I feel like I have failed our residents. I feel they are not receiving the timely compassionate quality care that they deserve. Residents have often asked why we are always so short staffed. A standard reply is always “This is what the government has funded for staffing”.
I became a CCA almost 5 years ago because I wanted to take care of people. I wanted to make sure that their last home in life would be great for them. If I wanted to be a cook or a dishwasher, I would have stayed at my restaurant job.
Now let’s talk about wages. We have been without a contract for almost 4 years. This is unacceptable. We bust our butts to take care of our most vulnerable people and the government shows zero appreciation for us. Since the pandemic started and long term care has restricted visitors, staff have had to step up and provide more even support to our residents. Our residents don’t understand why they can’t see their families. Families have been put in the difficult position of having to choose who gets to be with their loved one in their final moments. These situations are hard on families and residents; as staff we know it is important to comfort them in their time of need.
I want you to know that we are done waiting. We need our government to give us a FAIR contract ASAP so that we are not forced to take job action. Unfortunately your decision-making (to date) has created a care environment where the residents are suffering - it is not fair to them as this is not their fault.
I invite you to come to our facility and sit in my house during my shift so you can see for yourself what we do in a day and understand the resident care experience.
Charise Bull, CCA
The Meadows, Swift Current SK