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Crisis in long-term care facilities: Female immigrant health-care aides often overlooked, report

July 3, 2021

More than two dozen female immigrant workers have come forward to express their concerns with working conditions in Alberta’s long-term care (LTC) facilities.

A report on this subject conducted by Naomi Lightman — an assistant professor in the University of Calgary’s Department of Sociology — in conjunction with Calgary Immigrant Women’s Association and the Parkland Institute, identified difficulties faced by female immigrant health-care aides while working through the pandemic over the last year.

Lightman took the testimonies of the 25 immigrant women who work in LTC facilities as the basis for the report that suggests the lived experiences of these women match her analysis of the 2016 Canadian census on the same demographic group.

The report suggests that immigrant women health-care aides have a dirty, dangerous and difficult job that was only made harder by COVID-19-related restrictions. Now that the pandemic has highlighted these issues, researchers say it’s time for them to be addressed in a meaningful way

Lightman hopes her research will encourage government to consider the 12 recommendations outline in her report that could be implemented in order to improve working conditions in LTC facilities in Alberta. These recommendations generally discuss better pay for health care assistants and increased accountability regarding workplace safety and standards.

One of the major concerns put forward by Lightman suggest that female immigrant workers have suffered severe negative financial consequences due to the single-site work policy instituted in LTC facilities during the pandemic. Lightman’s work points out that this policy has made it impossible for immigrant caretakers to work at multiple care facilities, as many did pre-pandemic, making it challenging to generate as much income as before.

The report put forth by Lightman includes proposed changes that can be made to give LTC workers better pay and working conditions, something she feels is appropriately timed considering how thankful people are towards healthcare workers right now.

“Rhetoric about gratitude toward essential workers is meaningless without concrete changes to their working conditions and pay,” explained Lightman. “What is required is a shift in the value we ascribe to care work, as well as major reinvestment in LTC workers.”

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