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Dirty, difficult and dangerous work

Immigrant women health-care aides speak out about crisis in long-term care during pandemic

Calgary, Alberta – A first-of-its-kind report highlights the experiences of 25 immigrant women health-care aides working in long-term care (LTC) during the pandemic and shows how this essential work is socially and economically devalued.

“More than ‘Just a Health-Care Aide’: Immigrant Women Speak about the COVID-19 Crisis in Long-term Care,” by professor Naomi Lightman from the Department of Sociology at the University of Calgary, in conjunction with Parkland Institute and the Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association (CIWA), highlights immigrant women’s difficult experiences as staff in Calgary’s LTC sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as their recommended solutions to address the LTC crisis.  

“To-date the voices of the vulnerable immigrant, racialized women doing low wage, on-the-ground caring work in LTC have largely been ignored”, says Lightman. “But rhetoric about gratitude toward essential workers is meaningless without concrete changes to their working conditions and pay.”

The report found health-care aides have experienced severe negative financial consequences due to the single-site work policy instituted in LTC, have had exacerbated physical and mental health challenges due to the pandemic, have suffered from improper management and co-ordination within LTC, and have been systematically excluded from decision-making processes.

Meanwhile, the Alberta government’s response to the high rates of COVID-19 infections across the LTC sector has been widely critiqued for lacking co-ordination and being slow and inadequately financed.

Lightman’s report shares new insights from these women that can help inform national, provincial and municipal policy to assist in improving workplace standards, to document social inequalities tied to gender, race and immigrant status, and to help build resilience to handle future health emergencies.

Lightman presents 12 applied policy recommendations based on information from the interviewees. These recommendations provide guidance on how to move forward and improve workplace standards and well-being for health-care aides in LTC in Alberta, as well as more broadly across Canada.

The recommendations also address gaps in the Alberta government‘s recently released review of continuing care. “Implementing such recommendations will require significant, deliberate investments in staff and new/upgraded LTC facilities – something not in evidence in the Alberta government’s current continuing care budget,” says Lightman “What is required is a shift in the value we ascribe to care work, as well as major reinvestment in LTC workers.”

Media contact:

Sarah Pratt, Parkland Institute communications co-ordinator
[email protected]

Parkland Institute is a non-partisan public policy research institute in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. 

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