Alberta Health Services Sheds Some Light on Continuing Care

Alberta Health Services Sheds Some Light on Continuing Care

Michelle Pinon
News Advertiser

Heather Kipling, Communications Director, Central Zone Communications & Community Engagement with Alberta Health Services, shed some light on the situation in Vegreville and some of the challenges surrounding staffing of health care workers in general in rural Alberta.

Kipling confirmed that, “On May 28, 2020, Alberta Health Services (AHS) requested an exemption to Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) Order 10-2020 for four continuing care facilities within the community of Vegreville.

This temporary measure will enable approximately 20 staff to work at multiple sites rather than a single site to ensure that safe, quality care continues to be provided.

Having appropriate staffing in place in Vegreville will prevent any disruptions to care. As such, AHS is working with Alberta Health and Alberta’s CMOH, as well as local operators, to pursue a temporary exemption to the single site employment order put in place Long-Term Care and Designated Supportive Living facilities.  At the time of requesting the temporary exemption, it was not possible to limit staff who work at multiple sites to work at only a single site, due to the limited workforce.

If the temporary exemption is granted, AHS will ensure the safety of residents and staff through extensive measures to mitigate the risk of illnesses being spread. This will include mandatory changing of uniforms/scrubs between sites, completing rigorous screening before each shift and restricting movement between sites on the same day whenever possible.

Provincially, at least 95 per cent of workers are currently at a single site. We are working with operators to upload and review employee data to identify needs in the system.

Vegreville has four continuing care sites. The Vegreville Care Centre, which is owned and operated by AHS, Century Park, Vegreville Manor, and Heritage House, which are not owned by AHS and are operated by contracted care providers. Contracted care providers are responsible for their own staff recruitment, with oversight from AHS Seniors Health to ensure adherence to Continuing Care Health Standards. Although these sites are experiencing staffing challenges, there is no impact to patient care. The facilities remain open and operational, and quality care is being provided as usual.

The existing labour pool is split between the four continuing care sites as well as the hospital (owned and operated by Covenant Health). Shortages of healthcare providers in the area has been offset in the past by staff being permitted to work in more than one facility within the community. We are in regular contact with the operators of each of the continuing care sites in Vegreville to review their individual staffing levels. This helps ensure operators are maintaining appropriate levels of staffing that each site requires. These staffing needs can change, particularly as resident numbers fluctuate and staff are forced to self-isolate or need to stay home to look after children and loved ones.

In terms of the funding for additional pay, this was announced by the Health Minister on April 20, 2020 and it only applies to healthcare aides working at contracted providers in continuing care facilities. It does not apply to healthcare aides in AHS facilities (Vegreville Care Centre) nor does it apply to those working in Covenant Health, Carewest or Capital Care which are AHS owned. It applies to healthcare aides employed by contracted providers like Optima (Century Park) and Points West Living (Heritage House)

AHS continues to compensate our employees fairly and competitively, and ensure staff have access to other premiums, overtime, pension and benefits.

The recruitment of healthcare workers to rural areas is a challenge throughout the province, and is not specific to Vegreville. AHS recruitment efforts for the Vegreville Care Centre are ongoing; our efforts at this time are focused on training new workers while we also work to attract veteran staff to the area.”