We’re sharing stories from our latest edition of Update Magazine (Summer 2023), starting with this beautiful op-ed by Community Health Worker Yukie Imada. Look for print copies of Update Magazine in the mail or at your workplace!
HOW WORKERS SAVED BC’S HOME CARE SYSTEM
Most of the clients I support driving to their homes and delivering care to their doors—are seniors. When I look at them, I see my mom and dad, who are now in their 80’s. When I meet their families, I think of my sister, supporting our mom through her dementia diagnosis.
All three live in Japan, which I left one final time in 2011 to settle in BC. I had two young children, and as a migrant parent, finding steady work that could pay the bills was not easy. In home care, I saw an opportunity anddecided to pursue a job as a Community Health care Worker (CHW) to support my kids.
But I wasn’t acting on maternal instinct, alone; I was thinking of my own parents, an ocean away in Japan. I thought that if I can’t be there for them in their old age, I want to be there for someone else’s parents. If I can’t be beside my sister, I want to be there for BC’s family caregivers, to alleviate the pressure that they experience. In this last round of bargaining, my ability to keep doing this work for British Columbians was at stake.
To save our jobs and home care we needed a real recruitment and retention plan that would fix our under-resourced and understaffed teams. Financial parity with our counterparts at medical facilities, protections against violence, and provisions for mental health were also a must.
As of March 1, 2023, we secured a new contract with all these improvements and more. As a CHW this win affects me directly. It means I can afford my bills and that I’ll be less susceptible to burnout. But it also means I can pay it forward and support health care at all levels, which is the true value of quality home care.
By preventing falls and monitoring medication intake, CHWs protect individuals and help them maintain their independence. We also protect families by ensuring that sick, recovering, disabled or elderly relatives can stay connected with loved ones in the comfort of their own homes. Last but not least, we keep communities strong by ensuring that vulnerable people stay woven into the fabric of their neighborhoods.
Even though the work that we do is limited to private homes, it affects the public health care system as a whole and, therefore, every British Columbian. For instance, by doing regular house visits and providing mobility exercises, we prevent overcrowding in emergency rooms and continuing-care centres, where facilities staff are severely understaffed and overworked.
Everything is related. A solid Community Health care system is the foundation for an all-around healthy society. My mom always said everything feeds into each other. You can’t distinguish giving from receiving because they’re related. Just as she cared for me, I do for my community what I would do for her if she required the same level of care as my clients. Similarly, this new contract gives CHWs the support that we need to keep supporting our neighbors.