N.S. delays hiring patient transport operators due to overhelming number of applicants

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The process of hiring 100 patient transfer operators in Nova Scotia is on hold, but could resume by October. (Emergency Health Services - image credit)
The process of hiring 100 patient transfer operators in Nova Scotia is on hold, but could resume by October. (Emergency Health Services - image credit)

The Nova Scotia government's plan to hire 100 new patient transport operators has hit a snag because of too many  applicants.

The plan, announced earlier this summer, was to hire non-paramedic staff to handle routine patient transfers and reduce the pressure on Nova Scotia's ambulance system — which has been criticized for lengthy delays in service.

An email sent to applicants from Emergency Health Services Operations (EHS Operations) says recruitment is now delayed but offered no explanation.

"At this time, we are awaiting some key operational decisions before we continue our hiring process and may not resume until early October," the message stated.

The notice, sent from the human resources department, asked applicants if they wished to continue pursuing one of the new positions or to withdraw from the hiring process.

'A great deal of interest'

"This position has generated a great deal of interest and the hiring process includes screening, selection and on-boarding, all of which usually can take up to eight weeks for each group intake," said Bud Sanford, senior manager of ground operations with EHS Operations, in a statement to CBC News.

"The timing for hires is dependent on many variables, including completing the internal posting process for existing employees — which must be completed before considering external hires — and factors such as whether a candidate already possesses a Class 4 license, is fully vaccinated, and available for scheduled orientation."

EHS Operations says it has hired 35 new transport operators. The goal is to increase the number of patient transport operators from 80 to 180. Many of the new recruits recently completed orientation and started supporting patient transfers on Aug. 22. Thirteen of the new hires are going through orientation this week.

A labour representative says the delay is unfortunate.

"With an ambitious plan to hire 100 transport operators they should have had resources available to process these applicants as quickly as possible," said Kevin McMullin, the business manager for the union that represents paramedics and patient transport operators in Nova Scotia.

"We don't want to see any of these people who applied having to wait too long, they should know what these delays entail."

100 new jobs would cost $6.5M

In 2021, Emergency Health Services responded to 182,000 calls — an average of 500 per day — and 30 per cent of those calls did not require medical care during transport.

The 100 new jobs would cost around $6.5 million annually and be absorbed within the existing budget.

Nova Scotia also recently signed a contract with Tri-Star Industries in Yarmouth to lease 146 new ambulances. A July 27 press release stated they would be on the road in August.

The 10-year contract with Tri-Star is worth $48.8 million.

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