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Manitoba offers tuition funding to help care home aides hired during pandemic get certification

Uncertified health-care aides in Manitoba who were hired to work in personal care homes during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic will be able to receive tuition support to expand their skill set and get certification, the province said Tuesday.

Over the next year, approximately 120 eligible health-care aides will be able to apply for the tuition support as part of the initial program intake, which will cost the province $3.4 million.

The province initially hired uncertified aides at the end of 2020 in response to an urgent need for more support in personal care homes, which were severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At that point, Red River College provided the aides with a condensed one-week course as one of the college’s micro-credential programs. Tuition was free for students who committed to working in a personal care home for three months.

The new course is intended as a bridging program to allow those aides to become certified. The part-time course is intended to be completed over a period of 24 weeks, through a mix of in-person and virtual learning, according to a provincial website.

“During the pandemic, the addition of uncertified health-care aides to supplement staffing has helped us get through some very difficult years,” said Kevin Scott, who is the chief operating officer for Deer Lodge Center and River Park Gardens personal care homes in Winnipeg , and Middlechurch care home in West St. Paul.

Speaking at a Tuesday news conference where the funding was announced, Scott said health-care aides account for 70 percent of the staff who provide care at personal care homes.

Currently, there are 850 uncertified health-care aides working in Manitoba, he said. He encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunity to further their education and apply for permanent roles.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon said at Tuesday’s news conference that giving uncertified aides further training “will give them the necessary industry credentials to become permanent, long-term employees in our health-care system.”

The tuition support program is part of the government’s efforts to fulfill the 17 recommendations from the Stevenson review, Gordon said.

The province commissioned the external review from Dr. Lynn Stevenson in response to the deadly COVID-19 outbreak at the Maples Long Term Came Home in late 2020.

A total of 56 deaths were linked to the 12-week long outbreak, including eight deaths that happened in a 48-hour period at its start.

The review found understaffing at Maples. During the Oct. 30 to Nov. 8 period in 2020, there were numerous shifts for both nursing and health-care aides where staffing was below 70 per cent of normal, according to Stevenson’s report.

Tuesday’s funding announcement comes in addition to $16 million announced in June for the recruitment and hiring of more health-care aides, registered nurses, and licensed practical nurses.

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