Even though there has been some success, filling all the open positions remains a challenge for the North’s largest employer.
Northern Health hired 962 people so far this fiscal year. Last year the health authority welcomed 1,318 new employees, and the year before it hired 1,500. While numbers may seem staggering, the number of difficult-to-fill positions, classed as taking more than 90 days to fill, has decreased. However, it’s still a challenge.
“In the North, we generally have more difficulty recruiting to positions than our counterparts in other regions,” said Cathy Ulrich, Northern Health CEO. “Some of that is geography, some of that is related to where people go to school, and sometimes the relocation to a northern community is challenging.”
She said Northern Health has had success with programs through UNBC and the colleges, such radiology technology, lab technology, nurse practitioner, and the Northern Medical program, which train people in the North.
“The more than we can educate northern people for northern jobs the better,” she said. “It makes a huge difference for us. That doesn’t mean that we still have some difficult to fill positions, but we’ve had some good success.”
In Prince George, there is currently one difficult to fill position in facilities, five health science professionals, and five nurses. While there are challenges across the North, the toughest region is the northeast and trick is to make sure there are enough people to give a proper level of care.
“What happens is we may bring in temporary assignments or we are often in the position of filling them with overtime, which is not ideal,” said Ulrich.
Since December 2016 across Northern Health, there have been eight nurse practitioners hired, five resignations, and one end of contract. Northern Health currently has eight open postings: six permanent full-time and two relief full-time roles.
Since December 2016, Northern Health has hired 210 registered nurses, however most of those hired are casual positions.
In 2017, Northern Health hired seven new ultrasound technologists. These ultrasound technologists filled permanent full-time positions in Vanderhoof, Kitimat, and Prince George. Northern Health currently has one posting for a part-time relief position in Fort St. John.
Since December 2016, Northern Health has hired three permanent full-time physiotherapists. There are currently four permanent full-time and three permanent part-time postings open.
Adding to the challenge, Northern Health currently has 442 people on leave and 360 on long term disability.
Ulrich said Northern Health does move people around the region to help out with staff shortages in other areas.
“Generally, people are very accommodating in that regard,” she said. “We are looking at how can create more of a permanent float capacity around the region.”
As of November 17, Northern Health had 197 job openings.