VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — An organization that represents the long-term care sector in B.C. is looking at recruiting people laid-off from the hospitality sector to help solve a staffing shortage exacerbated by COVID-19.
The province has set a goal of providing each resident of a care home with 3.36 direct care hours per day. The most recent report from the seniors advocate shows the average was 3.13.
Mike Klassen with the BC Care Providers Association says a growing seniors population combined with COVID-19 -related restriction of staff to single sites will only add to the challenges of meeting the goal for direct care hours.
“It’s an important goal and will certainly lead to better quality of care and quality of life. However, a big problem is that we just don’t have enough staff, we haven’t been able to recruit and train enough people yet,” Klassen says.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said earlier this week the single-site condition, imposed due to the pandemic, is not likely to be lifted any time in the near future.
“That has definitely changed the landscape, it means that there are a significant number of care homes that simply are not going to be able to meet that 3.36 because they don’t have enough staff,” Klassen says, adding his group has identified 8,800 people who were working at multiple sites pre-pandemic.
Klassen thinks there is a way to meet the increased demand for workers in the seniors’ care sector by targeting those who have lost jobs in other sectors for training.
“We think that there are going to be sectors of the economy where there is going to be virtually no return to pre-COVID levels of employment, and hospitality is one of those areas,” he says.
He points to an initiative early in the pandemic that saw laid-off workers from Rogers Arena deployed to do jobs at care homes like cleaning, food service, and front-desk reception.
But he also is looking to the federal government to make an investment in recruitment and retraining.
“We are training, but we’re not training enough. I think we need to be looking not at hundreds of people being trained but we’re talking thousands of people being trained,” he explains.
“That requires more support and involvement from the federal government who understand this problem. I think they understand probably better than anyone that we’re looking at potentially long-term unemployment for many parts of our economy, and we’re also in high need of people to work in this sector if we want to be able to take care of a growing population of seniors.”
Klassen notes other issues are contributing to staff shortages, including low pay.
“Certainly the opportunity to make a higher income is one of the reasons that we saw people working at multiple sites,” he says.
“Over the long-term, I think there is going to be an evaluation needed of the levels of pay, you’re talking about a workforce that is going to be in high demand because of a growing seniors population.”
He also notes the recognition of foreign credentials would also allow skilled workers to enter the workforce in Canada more quickly.