Long-term care homes to receive additional staffing from pool of internationally educated nurses

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Long-term care homes in the county experiencing staffing shortages are expected to receive additional staffing support from the province.

A Jan. 17 memo sent out by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care indicated additional staffing support would be provided through a pool of internationally educated nurses for long-term care homes in need.

“In response to the highly transmissible Omicron variant, the Ministry of Long-Term Care and the Ministry of Health are taking further action to provide additional staffing support to long-term care homes, in order to protect our most vulnerable and maintain the stability of staffing supply in long-term care,” states the memo.

The nurses in the staffing pool have already applied to the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO) to become licensed in the province.

“The goal of the Long-Term Care Staffing Pool is to support [long-term care homes] who need to hire staff on a temporary, urgent basis to carry out the added workload for essential services and/or to temporarily replace LTC workers who are sick or in isolation as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Any internationally trained nurses hired by long-term care homes will work under supervision of a regulated health care provider, such as a registered nurse, the memo noted.

In 2020, 2,123 internationally trained nurses were licensed by the CNO out of the 6,315 that applied.

“In general, the long-term care sector is in the midst of a human health resource crisis,” County of Wellington communications manager Andrea Ravensdale stated in an email on behalf of the Wellington Terrace in Aboyne.

“Due to the high community spread of COVID-19, many of our staff have needed to isolate.”

Ravensdale said Wellington Terrace has not yet accessed agency staff but has had county staff available for re-deployment.

“Staff have worked overtime hours,” she said. “We draw from our internal resources for neighbourhood support, and we have the opportunity to access county deployed staff if needed.”

Ravensdale said Wellington Terrace has applied to have internationally educated nurses but as of Feb. 3 has not been notified as to whether it will be receiving any additional staffing.

In an email, Caressant Care communications manager Stuart Oakley said Caressant Care hasn’t been experiencing more staffing shortages than usual.

Caressant Care Nursing and Retirement Homes operates facilities in Arthur, Fergus and Harriston, among other locations in the province.

As of Feb. 3, an update on the Caressant Care website said the home in Harriston remains in outbreak, with eight cases. The outbreak,  first declared on Jan. 6, has had 53 resident cases, 29 staff cases and three deaths.

Oakley noted the Fergus Nursing Home, which saw an outbreak of 32 resident cases, 11 staff cases and three deaths, has resolved with virtually all staff back on shifts.

“During an outbreak, where staff test positive, it causes a shortage as the staff member must isolate for a specified period and cannot work until they are cleared,” Oakley explained.

During staff shortages, Oakley said the homes have resorted to using agency staff to “fill gaps in lines when needed and in particular during an outbreak.”

Oakley said Caressant Care has corporate staff that can be deployed to a home to help with nursing or management if needed.

“This is particularly done when a home is in outbreak and there may be management staff impacted,” he said. “Our corporate staff help the home to stabilize, conduct infection control audits and help nursing staff on the floor.”

Oakley said Caressant Care has applied for the additional staffing in all its locations but has only received two that may be deployed to its Woodstock location so far. It has not received nurses for its Fergus, Arthur or Harriston homes.