Return to site

Care aide shortage 'critical'

Author Colin Dacre

As Interior Health struggles to bring staffing at care homes to recommended levels, a report this week says a massive shortage of care aide workers across B.C. is only going to get worse.

The BC Care Providers Association released a report, Situation Critical, this week that shows efforts to fully staff care homes in the Okanagan will likely be met with strong headwinds due to a simple lack of new hires.

This comes at the same time a care home in Summerland has been under the microscope, with reports of staffing shortages there, after it was taken over by the Chinese government.

“The B.C. government has identified a need for hiring over 2,800 new full-time health care aides within the next five years to maintain or improve the level of seniors care across the province,” said BCCPA CEO Daniel Fontaine, adding “bold steps” will need to be taken to make that possible.

Senior care homes in B.C. are expected to provide a minimum of 3.36 hours of direct care per resident, but the vast majority fall short. In the Interior Health region, the average is at 3.15 for contracted facilities, according to the BC Seniors Advocate.

Interior Health says they are trying to improve and reach that 3.36 mark.

“Based on our previous benchmark of 3.15 hours of care per resident day, it will take a bit of time to increase staffing levels to achieve the new target but work is well underway,” said residential health services administrator Karen Omelchuk.

“As a first step, in February of this year, Interior Health approached our contracted providers to determine increases in care aide staffing that could be achieved to move towards the 3.36 target. Based on this, IH then provided additional funding,” she added.

Care homes may have the funding, but the current labour pool is aging and shrinking quickly. They will need to hire 1,500 workers to reach that 3.36 target, and 60 per cent of care home operators already say staffing is a problem.

“Our office regularly hears from members who are desperate to fill vacant positions with qualified workers in all corners of the province,” Fontaine said. “The time for talking has ended, and action is needed today.”

In B.C., the number of graduates from provincial care aide programs has declined by 514 registrations from 2014 to 2017.

To reverse the trend, the BCCPA is calling on the province to promote the industry to young people pondering careers, improve access to training and eliminate barriers for international students and healthcare workers from other jurisdictions. The report also recommends the wage disparity between union and non-union care homes be addressed.

The NDP government has responded to the report by pointing to more than 400 new care aides training spaces funded by the province at B.C. colleges, and over half a billion dollars over three years to improve seniors care.