News
Jan 10, 2022

Community health workers expose pandemic mental health issues

New video reveals CUPE members’ steadfast dedication despite workload, other challenges

BURNABY—CUPE members in B.C.’s community health sector are dedicated professionals who are committed to caring for the people they serve. But as their lives have become increasingly stressful after nearly two years of working through the COVID-19 pandemic, they need to know that health employers value them and their work.

That’s the chief takeaway from a new video released today, “Caring in a pandemic: Living and working through COVID.” In the video, 16 CUPE members from a diverse range of jobs across the sector share their experiences of life and work since the pandemic began. The interviews followed survey results that showed CUPE members have been experiencing significant mental health impacts as a result of insufficient staffing levels, redeployment, additional and excessive workloads, overtime, and lack of leave coverage, among other issues.

“The member feedback we got from those surveys indicated that there is a strong feeling of being undervalued or even considered disposable, and some of that really comes through in the interviews,” says CUPE Health Coordinator Tanya Paterson.

In the video, the members—who work under contracts for both the Community Bargaining Association (CBA) and the Health Science Professionals Bargaining Association (HSPBA)—describe the impacts of excessive workload on their personal lives during the pandemic. They also share some of the coping mechanisms they’ve developed along the way, and—in the lead-up to collective bargaining for both the CBA and the HSPBA—offer solutions to help employers improve the working environment.

“As with other sectors, these interviews reveal just how selfless and dedicated to their work and communities CUPE members have been during the pandemic,” says Paterson. “I am so proud of them—not just for their commitment to the people they serve but also for their courage and willingness to step up and demand better from the health care system.”

Paterson added that provincial bargaining for both the CBA and the HSPBA is expected to commence next month.

CUPE represents approximately 2,200 members in the community health sector across British Columbia. These members provide diagnostic, clinical, inspection, advocacy, home support, counselling, preventative, housing, and harm reduction/safe substance use services.

View the main video here and the short member interviews here.

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