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Pay health-care workers a decent, consistent wage

I would like to comment on the strike vote recently taken at Symphony Senior Living (Aspen Ridge) as my wife and I are directly affected if a strike does occur.

My wife is a resident of this facility, having become a victim of Alzheimer’s dementia.

This facility is incredibly well run by an extremely competent and caring staff. The quality of the food given to the residents is equal to the very best restaurants in our city. The actual facility is impeccable with excellent care and recreation being provided to its many residents. There are four floors of apartments for independent living and two assisted living units, one of which is a secure locked ward for patients with dementia. This is the ward on which my wife is a resident.

I visit my wife twice a day and have become very close to not only the other residents but the personal care staff. The employees are absolutely incredible and compassionate. It is not a job I could do and I have told my unmarried son to look for a bride in this industry because they are truly beautiful people both inside and out.

The management team is extremely competent and I have total faith that they are trying to resolve this issue. This facility has had a number of identities, including Club Sierra and Masterpiece. It is obviously not an industry that lends itself to huge profits as both of these predecessors ran into financial difficulty.

It is important to my family that the facility as it sits maintains a profitable viability.

However, this industry as a whole obviously has its issues with paying a decent wage to the employees and remaining viable. Last summer, there was a girl in the food services who was in her second year of nursing at RDC. I asked her why she wasn’t caring for the residents instead of this and she said she could make more money in the kitchen. I was at a barbecue last summer and I met a mother of another nursing student and her daughter was also working in the food service industry for the same reason. I said I thought it was because of the tips but her daughter also was only receiving the hourly wage.

I think it says something when we are paying people in the food services industry more than the ones who are providing the care for our loved ones.

As well, most of the caregivers have second jobs to supplement their wages. It is very apparent to me that the staff is doing it because of a genuine concern for our loved ones. At the same time, I sympathize with the employer because they only receive so much funding from Alberta Health Services and have a reasonable expectation that they should receive some return on their investment.

If a strike does occur, it will affect me personally as my wife has built a relationship with her caregivers. Whenever a new employee starts, she becomes quite aggressive towards them. If there is temporary staff in place during a strike, it will not be pretty. I am sure that other residents will also react this way as well.

I hope a settlement makes it fair for not only the staff but also the employer.

R. Dean Cowan

Red Deer

 
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