The Regional Health Authority — Central Manitoba Inc. is experiencing significant staffing shortages this summer and looking ahead to the fall as there is hope several programs will fill the void.
Jim Hunter, vice-president human resources for the Central RHA, said shortages that exist in Portage for example, are not uncommon to the rest of the health-care industry in the province or even across Canada.
“It seems like we always need more doctors and registered nurses, and we are especially concerned about a shortage of health-care aides,” Hunter said. “It’s like this all across the country, though.”
A recruitment program in Central that brought 27 nurses from the Philippines in May has been highly successful in filling most of the 30 nursing vacancies that previously existed. But he noted more work needs to be done.
Hunter said the Central RHA is expecting five more Filipino nurses this month. But there will still be up to eight registered nursing vacancies in the region afterward.
Source of nurses
The Philippines has been an excellent source of nurses for the Central RHA. The Asian country has hundreds of thousands of highly-motivated yet unemployed workers who are eager to come to Canada for work.
As part of the integration process, the Filipino nurses need to become certified as registered nurses in Canada, which can be an intensive and lengthy process.
Six nurses have already completed their Canadian accreditation exams, and are now able to operate to the full scope of the practice. The remaining nurses will write their exams in October.
Meanwhile, the Central RHA would like to fill the remaining vacancies as soon as possible, but a long-term approach seems to be its current modus operandi.
“Manitoba has been successful in increasing seats at both nursing schools, at both Red River College and the University of Manitoba, but the schools haven’t been able to keep up with the vacancies,” Hunter said.
The vice-president points to the baby boom generation leaving the workforce as a major reason why the RHA can’t catch up.
The Central RHA is trying to entice its older nurses, who are getting ready to retire, to stay on as casual workers while also offering financial assistance in the form of bursaries to students.
Hunter is more concerned about a shortage of health-care aides in personal care homes though, where there are as many as 40 vacancies throughout the region.
“We much prefer to hire health-care aides that have completed the accepted program at Red River College, Assiniboine Community College or Robertson College, but at times, they are not producing enough graduates. So we are now offering our on-site courses,” said Hunter.
The Central RHA has also been active with an aboriginal recruitment strategy.
Hunter insists that despite the vacancies, there have been no significant service disruptions this summer at any of the 20 sites (hospitals and personal care homes) the Central RHA operates.
The emergency room at St. Claude Health Centre remains closed, but it is still offering primary care. The hospital is currently at full capacity.
Hunter noted that hospitals in Notre Dame de Lourdes, Portage la Prairie and Treherne are properly equipped with ambulance and personnel to service that area.
Hunter said during the summer months, staff is more stretched out due to people going on vacation, but employees are working overtime to meet the demands.
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