Friday, 20 January 2017 04:49

Ongoing staff shortages a concern in Cypress Health Region

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Staff shortages continue to remain a challenge for the Cypress Health Region, despite recruitment efforts to fill vacancies.


The Cypress Health Region’s interim CEO Larry Allsen spoke about the challenges facing the organization at a regular meeting of the Cypress Regional Health Authority board, Jan. 11.
“We have roughly $2.7 million in staffing shortages all throughout the region,” he said. “This is a continual challenge for us, not only on the frontline, but administratively we have four vacancies in our site managers, which is putting a strain on our directors and some of our site managers are doing dual duties. So that’s putting stress on them.”
He mentioned a director who spent 20 hours over a weekend to find staff for a facility.
“People are going above and beyond to make sure that our facilities are kept open,” he said. “We’ve spent close to $700,000 on contract nursing positions to come in and stabilize our facilities while we still try to recruit. It’s more costly than having them on staff, but we’ve spent.”
The four vacant site manager positions are in Eastend, Gull Lake, Leader and Maple Creek, but most of the vacancies are for frontline workers. For example, the health region is still recruiting continuing care assistants for the long-term care facility, The Meadows, in Swift Current. The staff shortages occur across the board and it is having an impact on existing employees.
“It’s putting stress on our frontline workers working overtime and working short,” he said. “It’s not an ideal situation. It’s just a hard recruiting market out there for everything that we have.”
In some cases the vacant positions have been posted multiple times, but no applications have been received.
“We’re posting things for like the 32nd time,” he said. “It’s just, nobody is applying.”
In some cases, the shortages might be due to the limited number of graduates available from a program such as ultrasound.
“It’s hard to get in to and there are radiology companies, private radiologists, that are actually paying for these people to go to school,” he said. “We can’t afford to get into that sort of a bidding war for positions.”
He noted recruitment of staff has become a challenge on a broader level because people do not see a career in the health sector as a preferred option.
“I don’t want to paint a picture of doom and gloom, but it’s a tough market out there,” he said. “People aren’t seeing health care the way they’ve seen it maybe 20 years ago as a lifelong dream to be caring for people. That attraction is just not there anymore. So we struggle, and I don’t think we’re the only region ... and it’s getting harder every year as people start retiring. It's harder to fill those positions.”
There has not been in increase in service disruptions at facilities in the Cypress Health Region, but it takes a lot of effort and planning to cope with staff shortages.
“There’s a tremendous amount of background work that gets done by the managers of those facilities to ensure that they have all their service lines full,” Cypress Health Board Chair Lyle Quintin said. “I’m talking literally hours on weekends, when they’re supposed to be having time off, that they’re spending on the phone finding people to make sure they can keep their facilities open. I can’t give them enough credit for doing that work.”
Single management system for patient and employee safety:
The Cypress Health Region is developing a single management system for patient and employee safety.
Quintin said the development of the system started as a provincial initiative to have a safety management system for employees of the various regions.
“Our people sat down and said OK, that’s fine, but we need to include our patients in that same system,” he mentioned. “So we’re only going to run one system.”
The Cypress Health Region’s approach to create a single management system for staff and patient safety is being watched with interest by other health regions.
“I know from talking to other board chairs that there are other regions that aren’t going that direction, but they are watching our actions very closely because they understand that in the long run is the better way to have it rather than having a system for employees and another system running parallel to it for the patients,” he said. “So, the eyes of the other regions are watching us do the heavy lifting on this.”
Cypress Health Region’s interim CEO Larry Allsen believes such a system makes sense for staff and patients.
“If our staff are working safe, then our people accessing care should be safe,” he said.
He referred to the example of a health-care worker who repositions a patient without a lift.
“You can’t have two systems, the staff and the patients,” he said. “You need to marry them because they’re one in the same.”
The safety management system will have six elements. The development of the first element was just completed and five documents were created to outline the details for the safety charter, safety rules, safety responsibilities, safety accountabilities, and safety rights.
“There’s another five steps to go and it’s a culture change,” Quintin said. “Everyone is going to be focused on safety to ensure that not just the staff or the patients, but everybody that comes into our health environment is treated in the safest manner possible so the outcomes could be as good as possible.”
Teams have been formed to work on the next steps, which will include the roll out of the system in health facilities across the region.
The initial implementation will take place in the Cypress Regional Hospital, because it is the largest employee and patient centre in the health region.
“The staff will learn about this system and what the requirements are, and the trainers are going to learn what’s the best method to present this so that people retain it,” he said.

Read 2452 times Last modified on Friday, 20 January 2017 14:54
Matthew Liebenberg

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