Originally posted in the Fall 2015 issue of The Stand.
In June, President Joan Jessome; Executive Director Robin MacLean; Director of Negotiations and Servicing, Shawn Fuller; and ERO Corry MacKinnon attended a meeting with management from the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON), which employs approximately 130 of our members as schedulers and 700 of our members as home support workers.
At that meeting, we were informed of a plan to further contract-out home support services in the Valley and Pictou in order to deal with a large waitlist, which equated to approximately 6,000 hours of work.
We were reminded that their current contract with government allows for the VON to contract out in order to clear a wait list. After we steadfastly refused to support the contracting-out of our members’ work, the meeting didn’t last very long and we parted ways.
In early July, President Jessome attended a meeting we had requested with the Department of Health and Wellness (DHW) to find out the status of the Home Support Request for Proposals (RFP). We met with Carolyn Maxwell, Chair CCA Program, DHW; and Ruby Knowles, Executive Director of Continuing Care, DHW. At this meeting, we discussed our earlier meeting with the VON and their plan to further contract out the waitlisted hours.
The DHW representatives were shocked we were not supporting the contracting out of our members’ hours and were willing to risk the VON losing their contract altogether. We explained our opposition is a principled one, and there are no exceptions. If the risk is that the VON loses their contract – so be it. They asked us if we would be willing to work with the employer to find a different solution if they extended the VON’s deadline eliminating the waitlist, and we agreed.
After that meeting, we scheduled meetings with Jo-Anne Poirier, the CEO of VON Canada, and other VON management, as well as representatives from the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA), to sit down with us and discuss this issue further.
It quickly became clear that here is a lack of communication between the home support workers, schedulers, care coordinators, and the employer.
At this point, we began setting up meetings with our home support workers and care coordinators in the Valley and in Pictou, so President Jessome could hear about their different roles and concerns. She was able to take the information she gathered at these meetings into subsequent meetings with the VON and NSHA.
On August 24, the NSGEU held a special workshop with representatives from all the parties involved in the funding and delivery of VON home support services. The employer brought Nurse Managers and their Human Resource staff, who worked alongside our schedulers, home support workers and care coordinators, and representatives from the DHW and NSHA. Together at the same table, we worked together to try and identify key issues and problems that affect the waitlist, as well as some possible solutions.
Coming out of this meeting, we agreed to help develop a survey for VON home support workers and continuing care workers, province-wide. We are now in the process of scheduling our next meeting with the VON, where we will review the results of the survey, continue our discussions of the waitlist, and develop an action plan.
In the meantime, the DHW has continued to do research into waitlists and has come to find out that the waitlists are not as large as we were originally told because of the way hours were being reported. The waitlists are no longer considered to be in crisis.
We are hopeful that our work with the NSHA and VON, a major employer in home support, will yield some solutions that we can share with other home support employers and help improve working conditions for all.