Union rules can hinder home care

DAVIDSON, Sask. – Margaret Olorenshaw’s 25-year-old daughter has cerebral palsy and requires constant care.

When her parents can’t provide it they hire workers, some from home care. Olorenshaw told a recent rural women’s health conference that sometimes union rules interfere with what the Eston, Sask., mother regards as the best care for her daughter.

She prefers regular staff whom her daughter knows and who have been trained in her eating, medical and daily routines. When these workers are on vacation or not available, Olorenshaw will stay home rather than leave her child with an unfamiliar worker.

Home care head Joan Zimmer, although from a different health district, said there are contract agreements that all districts must follow that conflict with what clients and workers want. One is that workers cannot work longer than 12 hours at a time, even though it may make sense not to do a shift change in the middle of a winter night.

The other rule requires the district to offer home care work to the most senior staff. While some workers told the conference they prefer to work three days of lesser hours, the district tries to be cost efficient. It bunches work together so one worker does two or three home visits rather than one callout one day and another the next day.

Zimmer said the health district pays the travel time of the home-care worker; the client only pays once the worker is in her home.

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