With Health P.E.I. planning to recruit hundreds of internationally trained nurses in the next year, the agency is also on the hunt for places for them to live.
Last week, Health P.E.I. sent a letter to the Island's tourism and landlord associations putting out feelers for possible accommodations across the province.
The health authority's director of talent management, Ryan White, acknowledges finding a home for the nurses is a daunting task in a province with such limited housing.
"It is a significant worry, and it causes me to stay up at night," White told CBC News Friday.
"If we can't find housing, we'll have to delay some of the pre-arrival dates for some of the other cohorts coming in."
Health P.E.I. is looking for short and long-term housing for the couple dozen internationally trained nurses coming from Dubai this winter.
Health P.E.I. says the first cohort of internationally trained nurses is expected to arrive in February or March. (CBC)
That group is part of the 200 internationally trained nurses Health P.E.I. is aiming to recruit in the next year.
White said the plan is to bring the nurses over in "small batches at a time, so we can get people settled and support them."
If there's housing, they will come, resident care worker says
Sahil Chouhan, a resident care worker at Dr. John M. Gillis Memorial Lodge in Belfast, immigrated from India a few years ago. After going to school in Ontario, he took a job at the lodge.
Chouhan said finding a place to live was a big challenge when he moved to the Island.
"I was just searching on Kijiji. So it was hard for me to find a house," he said.
Sahil Chouhan lives in this apartment, near the nursing home where he works. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
Nearly half of the 100 or so staff at Gillis Lodge were recruited from other countries. Its management said it's been hard finding places for them to live — so much so, that the nursing home actually built 12 rental units for staff a few years ago.
Chouhan lives in one. He said that was one of the things that drew him to the job.
It's affordable, right across the street from the nursing home and other recruits from India live in the building, too.
It was the smartest decision we ever made as a business. - William McGuigan
"Like me and my friends will always come here, if the company's saying, giving their word that they'll find you a home, an apartment, we will trust. We will come," he said.
Coordinating housing for staff is something 'all facilities are going to have to look into,' says William McGuigan, the director of operations at the Dr. John M. Gillis Memorial Lodge. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
William McGuigan, the lodge's director of operations, said they plan to buy several other units as well.
"It was the smartest decision we ever made as a business to do that three years ago," said McGuigan.
"If we didn't, I don't know where we'd be at currently with our staffing. For me to go to the table, and say, 'Look, I have housing and can give you housing once you arrive,' is a major advantage I can offer staff that not all the facilities have."
'You can't be reactive'
Health P.E.I. started this latest international hiring kick last spring, but just put out the call for housing this month.
'If you don't have an available accommodation for candidates to come to P.E.I., they just won't come,' says Blake Doyle, owner of Island Recruiting. (Steve Bruce/CBC)
Blake Doyle, who owns a recruiting company in Charlottetown and works with private care homes in the province, said more advance planning is key.
You need to look for a year, at least, to make sure you've got the infrastructure in place. - Blake Doyle
"You can't be reactive to try to get people that are arriving in the province to employ them into your services," said Doyle.
"You need to look for a year at least, to make sure you've got the infrastructure in place to accommodate the staff you know you're going to need."
White acknowledged Health P.E.I. needs to be more proactive when it comes to finding housing for recruits.
"It's really going to impact how many people we can hire from non-domestic sources like off-Island and internationally," he said.