New $20 an hour workers in B.C. care homes need to be prepared for menial tasks | Kelowna News | iNFOnews

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New $20 an hour workers in B.C. care homes need to be prepared for menial tasks

Image Credit: PIXBAY
September 21, 2020 - 7:00 AM

Thousands of B.C. residents have already put their names forward for new jobs in the long-term care sector without really knowing what they might actually be asked to do.

And it seems the province has yet to work out how the new hires will be trained.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced last week that up to 7,000 new jobs will be created in long-term care facilities.

While some of the jobs will be in housekeeping and food services, as many as 3,000 people who “don’t have prior experience” will be hired as “health care support workers,” according to a Ministry of Health email to iNFOnews.ca

Much interest and some concerns were expressed when Dix announced the jobs will pay $20 per hour and he encouraged laid off hospitality workers to apply.

READ MORE: No experience needed to start new $20 an hour jobs in long term care

It appears these support jobs will be a new category of workers within long-term care homes who will perform the more menial tasks and free up trained care aids to do the more skilled work, at least initially.

“Typical duties include assisting with mealtime activities and performing housekeeping tasks,” the Ministry of Health email states but it doesn’t go into any further details on what those duties will be.

But those duties will be different than the care aids who “provide personal care assistance,” the email states.

Currently, public and private colleges in B.C. offer training for health care aids, sometimes called health care assistants.

Okanagan College, for example, offers a program that requires 745 hours over about 25 weeks. That includes 30 hours of classroom training with the rest in labs or working in care homes. It costs about $3,500.

Students don't get paid until after they graduate. The new support staff will be paid $20 just to start their training.

“All new employees must complete the basic health care support worker training, provided by the employer,” the Ministry of Health email states. “This basic training happens on the job and is under development.”

The ministry doesn’t say how long it will take to complete the basic training. Once that’s done, however, they can take further training, in partnership with the employer and a post-secondary institution, to become a fully qualified care aid and earn about $23 an hour.

The ministry said the care aid training could take a year to complete while the person is working. Normally such courses are six to eight months full-time.

The new program has sparked some backlash on Facebook.

“Well that’s just a slap in the face to those of us who paid for our HCA (Health Care Assistant) training and had to go through the PROPER steps,” one person wrote.

“I took $15,000 in student debt to become a care aide and now you can walk in off the street like its Walmart,” posted another.

“This is absolutely ridiculous. So are all the trained (schooled) care aides going to get a pay increase since we will become teachers?” asked another.

Mike Klassen, the vice-president of public affairs for the B.C. Care Providers Association had a totally different reaction. His association represents privately-owned care homes in the province.

“When I heard how the government was approaching this, I saluted them,” he said. “I thought it was an innovate approach.”

He said it’s a great way to get more people working in care homes and, hopefully, fill the long-standing shortage of workers.

Basic qualifications for the new positions include a Grade 10 education, “ability to observe and recognize changes in clients/residents, ability to establish and maintain relationships with clients/residents” and the physical ability to carry out the duties.

It’s not likely they are going to step in and take over, for example, the feeding of residents without some training.

“When you’re giving dining assistance to an older adult you need to know what you’re doing,” Kris Stewart said. She owns Advanced Home Care Solutions Inc., a Kelowna-based company that, among other things, provides care aids, on contract, to long-term care homes.

“You can’t just plop a housekeeper down in front of a resident and have them assist them. There are people with swallowing issues, people who are phasic and people with dysphasia. There are problems older adults have. An individual needs to be trained.”

Klassen added that these jobs aren’t for everybody.

“You need to have the right level of compassion and patience and personality that is suited to this kind of work,” he said. “It’s not for everyone but, those who do do the work and have been doing it for awhile love it.”

He also noted dealing with things like people’s toileting needs can be tough work. And those are the kinds of tasks the new support workers are likely to be doing, freeing up the trained care aids to do the more complex tasks.

The B.C. Hotel Association, for its part, took exception to Dix’s call for hospitality workers to fill these roles.

“The average wage in hospitality is more than $25 per hour; the notion that our industry is low skilled, or low paid is simply not true,” it said in an update to members.

“It is indeed very concerning to hear our government is suggesting on repurposing our workforce to healthcare when we have just come out of the most severe labour shortage in history, and now are facing the most severe fiscal hardship since the great depression. We need to support our workforce to return to their well paying, jobs, not repurpose them. We need our government to support tourism.”

For more information or to apply, go here.


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