The Okanagan is currently facing a nursing shortage for long-term care and it doesn’t appear the issue will be resolved anytime soon.
According to the BC Care Providers Association (BCCPA), there are currently 95.6 job vacancies for health care assistants and 24.7 job vacancies for licensed practical nurses in the Okanagan.
While the Okanagan is struggling to fill these jobs, other regions in the province are facing an even more severe shortfall, which the organization describes as a “crisis.”
For example, the Thompson Cariboo Shuswap region currently needs to fill 106.5 job vacancies for health care assistants, while the South Island needs to fill 25.4 job vacancies for licensed practical nurses.
The staffing shortage is so wide spread, the BCCPA recently decided to launch a ‘heat map’ to illustrate the need.
“The staffing crisis faced by B.C.’s seniors care sector is symptomatic of a failure to activate a comprehensive health human resources strategy,” said Aly Devji, president of the organization.
“What the heat map illustrates is that the staffing shortages problem is widespread and growing to several parts of the province.
“Our aim now as a sector should be to implement solutions.”
Since 2018, the organization said it has undertaken multiple measures to analyze and resolve B.C.’s health human resources crisis.
These include hosting an sector-wide collaboration with care providers, government, labour unions and training colleges. It has also published two reports outlining the scale of the crisis and provided 10 recommendations on how to resolve it.
It also established a $25,000 bursary program in partnership with Okanagan College and partnered with Health Match BC to design a recruitment campaign.
The organization hopes the heat map will put pressure on the government to implement its recommendations and resolve the staffing problem.
A spokesperson for the ministry of health acknowledged the staffing challeneges and said the government is working to improve the shortfall.
“One of the biggest challenges facing the health system is the need for people,” wrote Meriabeth Burton, manager of issues and media relations for the ministry.
“We need people to make our health system work – from health care assistants (HCA) to physicians to nurse practitioners and allied health workers. We need to support our existing health-care professionals and work to recruit a new generation of caregivers. Since we have become government, we have been working to do just that.”
She said the ministry is working to improve the B.C. Care Aide and Community Health Worker Registry and has invested $24-million over three years to increase staffing levels in long-term care homes, including health care assistants to achieve a target of 3.36 direct care hours per resident day, on average, by 2021.
“These investments will mean better working conditions and benefits for health-care assistants which helps them provide quality care to BC seniors,” wrote Burton.
“Currently, more than 50 per cent of health care assistants are working part-time or casual shifts. In 2017-18, 330 health-care aides were converted to full-time positions, with another 500 to follow this year. By the end of the strategy, the ministry of health estimates that approximately 900 new full time equivalent health care assistant positions.”