1,300 health-care workers hired at Horizon since April, says CEO

·3 min read
Margaret Melanson, interim president and CEO of Horizon Health, says the network wants to improve employee morale.  (Horizon Health Network - image credit)
Margaret Melanson, interim president and CEO of Horizon Health, says the network wants to improve employee morale. (Horizon Health Network - image credit)

Recruitment of staff is up at Horizon Health, where 1,300 health-care workers have been hired since April, says Margaret Melanson, the interim president and CEO.

Melanson held a news conference Thursday to talk about Horizon's recruitment and retention efforts, in part to give hope to employees that working conditions will improve.

She said she expects to see noticeable changes in the next several weeks because of the uptick in recruitment.

Melanson talked about Sackville Memorial Hospital, which was forced to cut its emergency room hours because of doctor and nurse shortages.

Horizon partnered with the Sackville community on recruitment and has hired at least five nurses in the last few months, she said.

"They continue their work now with physician recruitment and with ongoing other recruitment. That has been a great way to address this, and other municipalities are likewise wanting us to work with them and we are really pleased to do that."

Horizon broke the numbers of new employees down this way: 240 registered nurses, 163 licensed practical nurses, 288 personal care attendants and hundreds of allied health professionals and support service workers.

Melanson, who just moved into the position earlier this summer, said she has three priorities: improving care of patients, providing better access to services, particularly emergency and surgical, and improving the work environment to attract and retain staff.

Tori Weldon/CBC
Tori Weldon/CBC

The news conference didn't deal with any progress in the recruitment of doctors, but primary-care professionals are also a priority for the system, Melanson said.

"The availability of primary care and primary care providers, both physicians and nurse practitioners, is central to the overall improvements needed within New Brunswick in terms of our health-care system," she said.

Gail Lebel, Horizon's vice-president and chief human resource officer, largely led the recruitment efforts, according to Melanson.

Lebel said traditional methods of recruitment are no longer as effective, and the "post and pray" approach has evolved into a marketing-and-sales approach, with a focus on social media.

Engaging potential employees early

Options for making the health-care professions more attractive to young people include trying to engage their interest when they're still in the school system and making them aware of all the career possibilities.

Lebel also said work-life balance needs to be incorporated into recruitment and retention strategies to make the health-care field more interesting to younger people.

An ideal model is one where health-care workers "feel that they are listened to, they get proper communication, they have good places to work, they have supportive leaders," Lebel said.

"I really think that that is the piece that is going to be important, not only for current employees, but for future."

Melanson said hanging on to employees is a high priority, so Horizon is discussing different initiatives that could improve retention.

These include looking more flexibility in staff scheduling, which would be beneficial to younger staff with child-care needs.

Horizon is also trying to improve communication with staff, she said.

Morale a problem

But Melanson said the biggest thing the health network has been working on is a quality of work life.

Morale is an issue in Horizon hospitals, with COVID-19 being a significant factor.

"Our staff have been under a great deal of stress and pressure due to the ongoing COVID 19 situation and the ongoing need for the personal protective equipment and the various infection control protocols," said Melanson.

Joe McDonald/CBC
Joe McDonald/CBC

Horizon is working with an infection prevention and control group to see if there are any infection control protocols that could be lessened to provide more flexibility for staff.

By promoting its recruitment efforts, Melanson said Horizon hopes to instill hope among employees that vacancies will be filled.

"I believe that communication with our staff and support to them in whatever way we can provide is utmost in our minds at this time."