SOME OLD PEOPLE ARE WORTH MORE THAN OTHERS. At least that’s how the provincial paymasters in Nova Scotia see it. That means some of the workers who care for the elderly in the province will get a promised cash award and some won’t.
Nursing home workers will get a PSA (Public Service Award) cash payout—residential care workers will not.
The PSA is a benefit mandated in the collective agreement between all public service workers and the government of Nova Scotia. It pays workers one week’s pay for each year of service. Health care workers would get about $600, on average, for each year worked.
A distinction without a difference
But, all the workers caring for the elderly in Nova Scotia are not created equal, as far as the Department of Health is concerned. Never mind the fact that the health minister’s own 2018 expert panel on long-term care made little distinction between the level of care given in nursing homes and residential care facilities.
The expert panel noted the main—perhaps the only—difference between the nursing homes and residential care homes is the mobility of residents. Those in residential care must be ambulatory (able to vacate the facility under their own power) while nursing home residents include those who are not.
But, deciding who gets the PSA and who doesn’t becomes murky given the fact all elder care facilities in the province are publicly funded—including those owned and operated by private businesses.
Gross unfairness side by side
There are two long-term care facilities in Truro, NS, both operated by a family business. The workers have no complaint with their employer. But the province is the invisible paymaster in the mix and that changes everything.
Townsview Estates is considered a residential care facility. Wynn Park Villa, just a couple of kilometres down the road, offers both nursing home and residential care.
Workers at Townsview Estates will not receive the PSA.
The Townsview caregivers dress wounds and provide compassionate care to the residents. They bond with those in their care, hold their hands and sit by their beds when they die. The bureaucrats who deny those workers their PSA do none of that. They earn two, three or four times as much and themselves took home big public service awards.
The Department of Health and Wellness had no explanation for their discrimination against residential care workers—beyond the fact residential care workers have always been paid less. A historical unfairness the bureaucrats saw no reason to remedy.
Denying benefits to the folks who work in places like Townsview will do nothing to address the deep problems with the Nova Scotia health-care system. Denying benefits to the high earners charged with fixing those problems might. But, that would require making fairness a standard operating procedure in the department.
Residential care workers in Nova Scotia aren’t holding their breath.
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