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Monday, May 12, 2008

Filipino nurses a big win for Sask

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Randy Burton, The StarPhoenix
Published: Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's hard to overestimate the effect of adding almost 300 nurses to the health system in a matter of months.

In one stroke, the provincial government and the health regions have made it more than one-third of the way to the goal of hiring 800 nurses over four years.

One recruiting trip to the Philippines has netted the province 297 nurses, who will begin moving to Canada over the next six months.
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They will be spread across a number of different health regions centred in Saskatoon, Regina, North Battleford and Prince Albert. All of a sudden, the nursing crisis begins to look a lot more manageable.

The Saskatoon Health Region will be the biggest beneficiary of this influx with the addition of 105 nurses.

Naturally, there will be significant challenges in settling this many people in Saskatchewan's tight housing market, but given the present nursing shortage, that's a good problem to have.

This stunning success is the result of much planning and preparation by the provincial Health Ministry and the Saskatoon Health Region, which took the lead on organizing the 10-day expedition to the Philippines.

It is also due to the fact that there are so many people in the Philippines who want to leave their home nation to work. In the last 10 years, something in the order of 10,000 nurses have left the Philippines to work in another country. It is the largest exporter of nurses in the world, with about 300,000 Filipino-born nurses working abroad.

What this experiment demonstrates is the nursing shortage is an issue countries across the western world are struggling with. It just so happens the Philippines is uniquely situated to supply nurses to the North American health system.

Not only does it train nurses in English, it uses an American curriculum, which is very similar to Canadian requirements.

What's more, the nurses are ecstatic to be coming to Canada, not only because of the quality of the health system here but because of its reputation for treating immigrants fairly.

Instead of staying home to make 15 cents an hour, they can come here and make $25 an hour to start. They also qualify for the same $5,000 recruitment bonus offered to domestic Canadian nurses, which helps them get established in Canada.

One of the lead officials on the recruiting trip was Bonnie Blakeley,

vice-president of people strategies for the Saskatoon Health Region. She says it was a humbling experience to be in the position of making life-changing decisions for young nurses who will be able to support their families from Canada.

"We feel a real sense of responsibility because we saw the hospitals they work in, the communities they have to live in and we realized just how fortunate we are to have what we have."

Because of the cultural differences, the Saskatchewan delegation employed some ethical guidelines in the hiring process, particularly with regard to avoiding charges of plundering the country's health resources. Consequently, it wouldn't take any more than 10 nurses from any one hospital and no more than three from any one unit.


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