My former place of employment has been in the local news lately. This always gets my attention. Normally, I tune into these reports not so much because I’m interested in keeping up with what’s going on at the place – I have better ways of doing that – but more to see what the local media got wrong.
However, the most recent series of reports is highlighting a very real problem involving staffing shortages. According to yesterday’s report, the agency responsible for keeping the facility staffed with direct care workers has admitted to not meeting their minimal contractual obligations. In other words, the place is working short all of the time. And we all know what that does to the quality of care.
The acting CEO at the facility says they make up for shortages by having caregivers work overtime, either voluntarily or through mandating. He pointed out that this is not unusual in Long Term Care, falling into the old LTC industry trap of comparing itself to itself. All the other kids are doing it, so it must be okay. He did admit that it can be hard on caregivers to work double shifts.
But then he went on to say this: “Some people love to work double shifts… People want to have that extra overtime.”
Yes, they want the overtime, Mr. Acting CEO. But not because they love it. They do it because they have to. Because the pay is so poor to begin with that they either have to pick up extra hours or work a second job just to make ends meet.
It wasn’t always this way at my old place. There was a time when it was staffed by unionized direct care workers who made a living wage and had decent benefits. And this provided the facility with a stable, dedicated work force. That’s gone now.
I remember hearing someone in our business office complaining about the caregivers being paid too far above “market standards.” Today, they simply work people into exhaustion. Expendable workers – yes I think that pretty much matches the current market standard.