Re: City veterans' home to lay off unionized staff, Burnaby NOW, Nov. 2, 2012
As the spouse of a George Derby resident, I was distressed to read the Burnaby NOW article announcing staff layoffs there.
Through almost daily visits, I have observed at George Derby an extraordinarily positive collective work ethic that has made it an excellent nursing home. I have observed Marlene in the special care unit, who performs her required duties with an extraordinarily high level of dedication and competence, while at the same time listening to and comforting often incoherent and rambling residents and families of residents in distress. I imagine there are many others like her whom I have not met. These unit clerks and reception desk staff have been given notice. This is a grave error. If ongoing patient contact was cited as one reason to keep or to dismiss staff, then it should be noted that many of these "clerks and desk personnel" have detailed knowledge about and hourly contact with patients and with their families.
I have seen recreation organizers who go beyond what might be expected to entice residents to participate. I understand that the jobs of these activity workers also are being cut despite their high level of patient contact. I have not even mentioned the outsourcing of cleaning services that may save money in the short run but increase the incidence of flu, C. difficile and other infectious diseases in the long run, costing innocent lives and requiring expensive cleanups.
I think the management of George Derby is making a very bad mistake by thinking that it can save Fraser Health money by contracting out so many services. It may find individuals who will perform the formal, listed responsibilities of the current staff for less money. However, I doubt that they will go above and beyond what is in their job descriptions, the way the current staff does, to ensure the residents' health, safety, comfort and well-being.
Inevitably, Fraser Health will have to deal with residents who are sicker and more distressed than it faces now and residents' families with more complaints, all requiring more staff time and medical attention.
I am dismayed not only about the decision to outsource these and other services but also about the failure of George Derby management to consult meaningfully with staff and with residents' families.
In September, George Derby spent the money to send a letter to "residents, families, volunteers and friends" about the labour dispute at the nursing home but sadly did not or could not use this as an opportunity to solicit their advice and input.
I was told then that labour rules prohibited such consultation once a job action was initiated. Perhaps so, but surely George Derby management should have initiated extensive, in-depth consultations with staff and with residents' families three years ago, when the nursing home's budgetary problems first became apparent.
Peggy Meyer, New Westminster
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