N.S. hiring recruiters to help fill staffing shortages in long-term care

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Barbara Adams, minister of seniors and long-term care, announced a new recruitment initiative at an event outside St. Vincent's Nursing Home in Halifax on Monday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)
Barbara Adams, minister of seniors and long-term care, announced a new recruitment initiative at an event outside St. Vincent's Nursing Home in Halifax on Monday. (Paul Palmeter/CBC - image credit)

Nova Scotia is hiring recruiters to help fill staffing voids in long-term and continuing care.

The province announced Monday that six recruiters will be hired to provide human resources support to long-term care homes and home-care agencies across the province.

Two of the six recruiters will focus on hiring international health-care workers. All the recruiters will be looking for continuing care assistants and other health-care workers.

The continuing care sector in Nova Scotia has been plagued recently by staffing shortages, which in some cases have caused long-term care homes to stop taking new admissions.

The recruitment initiative has a price tag of $1.7 million, which includes:

  • $622,000 for six recruiters.

  • $360,000 for a skills and development fund to provide training to long-term care staff.

  • $360,000 for an innovation fund to help care homes and agencies find local solutions to staffing challenges.

  • $358,000 for technology, promotion, developing a website, travel and other expenses.

At a news conference Monday morning, Barbara Adams, minister of seniors and long-term care, told reporters one recruiter has already been hired and she expects the remainder to be hired before Christmas.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

Adams said she wants recruiters to pull from pools of newly trained workers, as well as from people who previously worked in the sector but left.

"This is a very specialized and rewarding field, and the reason that we're hearing that a number of people have left the occupation is that they're overworked and they're tired and not getting their vacations," she said.

Adams said she thinks people will be drawn back if they see change happening and a push for "appropriate staffing levels."

"It will go back to a place that we all found so rewarding in the past."

Wages, benefits

The Progressive Conservative made an election promise to hire 2,000 long-term care staff. Adams said the new recruiters' work will be "specifically targeted at bringing in those 2,000 staff."

Adams said she wants job vacancies filled quickly in order to ensure residents receive quality care, and to improve working conditions in the sector.

Union leaders have pointed to low wages and little or no access to benefits as obstacles to worker retention. Monday's announcement does not address those issues. Adams said the place for discussions on wages and benefits is in contract negotiations with the unions that represent continuing care staff.

The province has partnered with the non-profit Health Association Nova Scotia to hire the recruiters and administer the two funds.

Paul Palmeter/CBC
Paul Palmeter/CBC

Mary Lee, president and CEO of the association, said a stakeholder advisory committee will be assembled in the coming weeks "to provide oversight and accountability" for the funds.

"We are very excited to get this project underway and to begin helping the continuing care sector that it urgently needs today and to ensure a sustainable and skilled workforce in the years to come," Lee said at the announcement, which took place at St. Vincent's Nursing Home in Halifax.

Angela Berrette, St. Vincent's executive director, said the province is "putting promises into welcome action."

"The addition of dedicated human resource expertise is vital for facilities across the province who are stretched beyond the ability to hire and recruit and retain people on our own," said Berrette.

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