General manager Dave Gutscher of The Hamlets at Penticton talks with (left to right) Sprott Shaw College instructor Aileen McKinnon and students Jaylyn William-Petel and Kirlin Roberge about staffing at the facility. (Mark Brett - Western News)

Okanagan care providers working to ease staffing crisis

Care providers from private care facilities come together over staffing shortage

Officials from Penticton’s private adult care and retirement centres met this week to talk about ways to alleviate what’s being called a staffing “crisis” in the industry.

Organized by The Hamlets at Penticton general manager Dave Gutscher, students and instructors of Sprott Shaw College’s Licenced Practical Nurses (LPN) and care aide programs were also invited to attend.

The hour-long session came on the heels of a visit by Daniel Fontaine, the CEO of BC Care Providers Association, five-city Listening Tour, exploring new solutions to the province-wide problem.

READ MORE: BC Care Providers to explore new solutions to care aide shortage in Okanagan

“I invited all our non-IHA (Interior Health Authority) competitors to speak to the students,” said Gutscher, whose facility is one of the fortunate ones operating at full-staffing capacity. “I kind of have this vision if all five of us general managers are working together, building this relationship with Sprott Shaw, Sprott Shaw will be staying in this community which is needed and more students will want to take the course.

“Word’s getting out, you know we’re all pretty decent guys and girls and good companies to work for and if we can get that message out, if we’re all kind of arm and arm, I think we can really make the South Okanagan kind of a magnet for good talent but we have to work together and we have to start right now.”

Zander Cook of Haven Hill Retirement Centre was one of the attending general managers fully on board with the collaborative approach.

“It was so great of Dave to have us, we’re just trying to be good neighbours and good neighbours help each other out,” said Cook, adding some of his staff also works at the Hamlets. “Dave is very forward thinking and I was glad to be a part of it.

“I don’t see it as competition, we all have our own unique culture and benefits and assets which is good for residents and team members.”

READ MORE: Province provides funding to increase care for seniors

Village by the Station Site Manager Kim Pereira was also happy with the results of the meeting.

“I was encouraged by the discussion and it is part of our commitment as an organization to take action in attracting and retaining employees,” she said. “Understanding and addressing labour shortages across the Interior is a multi-faceted challenge, with no one solution. We must continue to engage partnerships on a number of fronts to provide the skilled health care professionals we need for today and tomorrow.”

For his part Gutscher believes the reason his staffing lines are full is because of the “family feel” and level of appreciation his employees enjoy at their place of employment.

“It is a tough job being a care aide but I can tell you it’s a heck of a lot easier when you’re fully staffed,” he said. “But because mostly everybody is in crisis right now it’s tough to be in this industry. It’s hard work and it’s high injury but it doesn’t have to be that way, when you’re fully staffed, nobody’s phoning in sick, nobody’s getting injured and you’ve got time to do training.”

While Cook is still hiring, he did receive good news this week with word WorkBC is providing a grant to Haven Hill to cover 16 fully-funded care aide training spaces in conjunction with Sprott Shaw.

In addition, they are now in the process of recruiting international co-op students.

Through that program, similar to the one at The Hamlets, students spend their time between the college campus and the facility where they do practicum and classroom work.

“I think more people are seeing this as a good industry to be in,” said Gutscher, who also plans to get his message out to seniors in high school. “There are a lot of people out that with caring attitudes and this would be a good match for them, this industry.”

The college’s health care assistant program is a total of 790 hours that includes a full-time program length of 29 weeks and 270 practicum hours.


 

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