More than 75 former staff members, supporters, family members and at least one resident protested last week in front of Fir Park and Echo Village for better conditions in the long-term care facilities.
Many of the protesters’ signs brought attention to staffing issues at both of the facilities, calling on the Alberni-Clayoquot Continuing Care Society (ACCCS)—which oversees both homes—to take action.
Denis Sauve, a former City of Port Alberni appointee to the ACCCS board, said he attended the protest to speak up for staff and clients at both facilities. “We’re being a voice for staff members that are being intimidated and don’t want to come forward,” Sauve said.
“It’s been ongoing for a long time. There’s staff shortages that need to be addressed, the workers that are working—the nurses and care aides—are working long hours and that’s one of the grievances put forward. But mostly you’ve got residents, you’ve got your loved ones in there and they haven’t had a bath for a week or two or three and it’s just unheard of. That’s what we’re trying to address, is to get the proper care.”
Staff members were not involved in the protest, however, some of them stood across the street to watch the proceedings, including a union member with the Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU). None of them were willing to speak with media.
A union spokesperson with the HEU confirmed for another news outlet that more than 100 grievances have been filed by staff members at both Fir Park Village and Echo Village. Sauve said the grievances are one of a number of concerns.
“The fact that 100 grievances have been made by the staff, and none of them have been addressed in a timely fashion is not right,” Sauve said. “And staff members here have a collective agreement to be able to deal with these grievances, but they’re being ignored.
“Now we have many workers on both sides that are worried to come forward. They don’t want to come forward because they’re worried about retribution.”
Mark Chase has lived at Echo Village for 11 years. He rode his electric scooter among the protesters with his own sign proclaiming that he had been threatened with eviction because he spoke out about conditions inside the home.
“I’m here to stand up for the staff and residents that can’t speak their piece,” he said. “I’ve been here for 11 years. I’ve seen what it was before, to what it is now. There’s no comparison: it’s just gotten worse and worse. Staff aren’t happy and I’m here for them.
“They’re so short-staffed they can’t run properly with what they’ve got.”
Kristy Salter organized the Aug. 31 protest after seeing a television news report where people aired their grievances. Salter, an education assistant (EA) with School District 70, said she is not a healthcare worker but she knows several people who work in Fir Park and Echo Village.
“After receiving all these private messages from current staff members that are too afraid to speak because they’re worried about repercussions, I decided I would create this event and hopefully gather enough support to make this out in the open for the community,” Salter said.