ST. CATHARINES – Some patients receiving publicly-funded home nursing care in Niagara and Norfolk County will likely have to fend for themselves as of tomorrow morning.
About 100 nursing and administrative staff at CarePartners will be on strike as of midnight tonight, leaving the Community Care Access Centre to find alternate care for the region’s most acute patients.
“We have given CarePartners a very long runway to get a first contract negotiated,” says Warren (Smokey) Thomas, President of the 130,000-member Ontario Public Service Employees Union. “This is an agency that has had trouble retaining skilled nursing staff yet has been unwilling to budge on the working conditions and compensation issues that are leading to that exodus.”
Staff at CarePartners have been seeking basic rights and benefits for more than a year and a half, hitting a wall in bargaining over such basics as sick pay.
Staff are also seeking pay equity between visiting and clinic nurses employed locally by CarePartners.
As of tomorrow there will be no continuity of care for those who have been shifted to other agencies. Some patients with limited mobility are being asked to travel from their homes to clinics. Staff fear that for many of their patients, including school-age children, there will be no alternative arrangements at all.
“Home care is supposed to be the cost-effective alternative that patients prefer,” says Thomas, “but when a private agency puts its profits ahead of retaining needed staff, patients end up in more expensive forms of care such as a hospital emergency room. This makes a mockery of the government’s commitment to the right care at the right time in the right place.”