Krista Henson has been a rehabilitation assistant for the past 10 years. She currently works at Thunder Bay Regional Hospital and is a newly appointed steward. She has been a strong advocate since the pandemic began, and the union recognized her potential to help others in her workplace. We encouraged her to use her voice to fight for her colleagues in the hospital sector. Krista is also the rehab assistant practise lead and an academic placement coordinator.
Rehabilitation assistants do everything from helping patients with daily living, self-care, feeding, meal preparation, and dressing, to cognition remedial activities, strength, and walking program. They help patient’s families with education, use of prescriptions and tools (wheelchairs and braces), and suggest modified daily items and adaptable clothing. On top of that, they also help with cleaning and maintaining inventory for infection control. During the pandemic, they have been keeping up to date with all the latest COVID-19 policies and procedures. Krista is a jill of all trades, and even with a heavy workload, she looks forward to every day at the hospital.
“I enjoy interacting with all my patients. It is rewarding to see their progression and how therapy works for them. COVID-19 has created a high demand for therapy. We work with patients in units upstairs, but we also work in the hand clinic and the emergency department. When pandemic pay was announced, we were excited, but we quickly discovered that our classification was left out. I have never felt so undervalued and disrespect. The government is unaware of what we do every day. There was a dedicated COVID-19 unit in my workplace, where my colleagues had direct face-to-face contact with positive patients. I started writing letters to the government, our local MPPs, our union, and the CEO of the hospital. How can they leave us out when we are with patients every day?”
Krista strongly believes that everyone in healthcare deserves a top-up, not just during the pandemic, but in general. Healthcare workers go above and beyond every day to keep their patients safe, and this pandemic has shown that they deserve much more than they receive. Like many other healthcare workers, Krista questions why pandemic pay has ended when the pandemic is far from over and is only getting worst.
“Our government needs to be inclusive. Hospital workers are a team; we provide the same thing – quality healthcare. Being excluded was disheartening, and there are serious consequences for picking and choosing. I guess Doug Ford never thought about that. It was even worst when the second list came out, and we once again were excluded. The Ministry of Labour couldn’t even explain why we were eligible because they knew we were in a setting where we could be at risk.”
The hospital has received an additional 30 beds for the flu season and to help with COVID-19 patients. They are happy with the new investment, but it is not enough. When the government make decisions, they must consider the hospital as a whole, considering every department, and every healthcare worker.