Victoria, B.C. (May 30, 2023): As the heath human resource crisis continues to intensify across the province, BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) is calling on the provincial government and private nursing agencies to collaborate further with the sector to control the impacts of the use of temporary nursing agencies in long-term care.
Association CEO and former BC Health Minister, Terry Lake says the agencies’ practices are resulting in unstable staffing, and negatively affecting residents’ quality of care. Agencies traditionally have been effective in providing short term help to fill vacancies due to vacation and illness but now supply large swaths of the workforce in healthcare.
“Many temporary agencies are promising wages which care homes simply cannot compete with, and earning large margins doing it. Workers will leave their employer and work for several care homes on an ad-hoc basis, or a care home will be forced to hire that same worker back at a much higher rate out of desperation,” says Lake, who indicates that the practice has impacts comparable to “contract flipping.”
“For residents, particularly those living with dementia, having familiar staff who know you is critical to quality care. When staffing is unstable, that has very real impacts on the people who live in long-term care,” he continues. It also can have negative impacts on regular staff who work alongside agency staff for lower wages and often have to provide support to those unfamiliar with the home’s procedures.
Lake indicates that upward of 50-75 percent of long-term care nursing lines in areas like the Interior are being filled by temporary agency nurses, putting the sector at a near breaking point. In more than one home, agency staff comprise one hundred percent of the positions. Lake predicts that the issue will get worse as summer nears and staff take well deserved vacation time.
“In addition to the impacts on residents, our members are telling us that these exorbitant and unexpected costs are financially destabilizing the sector. Unless there is immediate action this could result in bed closures and serious disruptions to care,” says Lake.
BCCPA acknowledges the Government of B.C.’s progress on health human resources challenges in the province, and that policy is being developed on this issue. Given the urgency of this matter, the Association is looking to the Ministry of Health, and temporary nursing agencies, to partner with the Association to address these concerns further. In Quebec, legislation has been passed to essentially ban the use of agencies but Lake says finding a consensual solution is the preferred approach.
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About BCCPA & EngAge BC:
Established in 1977, BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA) is the leading voice for B.C.’s continuing care sector. Our growing membership base includes over 450 long-term care, assisted living, and commercial members from across British Columbia. Through its operating arm EngAge BC, the organization represents independent living and private-pay home health operators.
BCCPA and EngAge BC members support more than 19,000 seniors annually in long-term care and assisted living settings and 6,500 independent living residents. Additionally, our members deliver almost 2.5 million hours of home care and home support services each year.