Hospital Employees’ Union (HEU) members in Kootenay Boundary celebrated 72 years of public health care service during “HEU Day,” an event held province-wide on Thursday.
But who is HEU? And what role do their workers play in day-to-day care in medical facilities like Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (KRBH)?
The Trail Times caught up with Shannon Calhoun and Brandi Gademans, two KBRH employees and HEU leaders, who were on hand offering cake and pamplet reminders that it takes a team to deliver quality public health care, and every job is vital to quality care.
Presently there are 235 HEU employees at the regional hospital, began Calhoun.
“The support services staff, such as dietary, housekeeping, care aides, medical device re—processing, lab and rehab assistants and all booking clerks and clerical jobs are HEU,” she said. “We are primarily the support staff for the hospital, granted there are other roles in the facility that support as well, however, we are the larger bulk of the support staff.”
The union’s grassroots began in 1944 at Vancouver General Hospital, and today the B.C. Locals represent 46,000 members, Gademans clarified, noting CUPE is the Canada-wide “mother” union.
So what is HEU Day all about?
“Today is the day to celebrate solidarity, diversity, safe working habits and a good working environment,” said Calhoun.
And both women, each longtime members, say that HEU positions can be a very rewarding career choice.
“Our union has fought long and hard for equal wages and for people with disabilities being employed,” Calhoun added. “They’ve worked a long time fighting for rights of workers as well as patient care – right now we have a campaign called, “Care Can’t Wait,” for better care for our seniors. We have an aging population and there is a crisis in senior care, HEU has many campaigns, this is just one of them.”