A move to attract new health-care workers for positions in Grand Forks has drawn the ire of the B.C. Hospital Workers Union.
On Wednesday, Interior Health outlined new incentives being offered to attract new workers, including financial and other non-monetary inducements.
Meena Brisard, HEU secretary business manager in Grand Forks, says she's concerned for the health-care workers already working, who won't qualify for the new incentives.
"It takes a team to deliver health care, and each member of that team is a critical link in the health care journey of patients and care home residents," Brisard told Castanet Thursday.
“That team is under strain in Grand Forks where staffing shortages compromise access to care and put enormous strain on existing staff."
B.C.'s Health Minister Adrian Dix said the area's staffing problems require "out-of-the-box" solutions.
“Grand Forks faces unique challenges to staffing which require community-based solutions and thinking outside the box,” said Dix.
“These incentives are an important step towards bringing best practices from around the province to Grand Forks and stabilizing local health services people in the area expect and deserve.”
The incentives and resources are available to eligible frontline Interior Health Grand Forks staff who work at Boundary District Hospital, Hardy View Lodge long-term care home and in community settings such as home support and mental health substance use services.
“Yesterday, the Ministry of Health announced a number of financial incentives to help alleviate these shortages, but these incentives only apply to some members of the health-care team, and they devalue the contributions of others who also work every day to provide good care in Grand Forks," Brisard said.
“These types of incentive schemes have a negative impact on staff morale, at a time when we need to support our entire health care team."
New incentives include:
- Up to $2,000 in a quarterly retention bonus for eligible existing staff depending on how much they work (maximum amount for full-time). This is an expansion of the existing Provincial Rural Retention Incentive (PRRI) program currently being prototyped by communities in Northern Health.
- 1.5 times normal wage for staff who travel more than 40 kilometres from other IH work sites to support services in Grand Forks.
- Up to a $1,500 bonus for Interior Health staff referring other health-care workers to Grand Forks who sign on to eligible positions.
- Extension of Northern Health’s Travel Resource Program (TRP) to include Grand Forks which will provide access to a pool of nurses to support community. TRP nurses can begin to request and schedule shifts in Grand Forks beginning December 1.
Limited staffing in Grand Forks has resulted in the temporary closure of inpatient beds at Boundary Hospital in March. To date, emergency department services have gone above and beyond to avoid more significant closures, but additional staff are also required to stabilize emergency services and reduce the risk of any interruptions.
“These incentives are part of our commitment to local patients and to our current staff and physicians who remained steadfast in their dedication to Grand Forks and Boundary communities during these challenging times,” said Dr. Shallen Letwin, vice president of clinical operations, IH South.
Incentives are currently available for the following positions:
- Registered Nurse
- Registered Psychiatric Nurse
- Licensed Practical Nurse
- Health Care Assistant
- Community Health Worker
- Medical Laboratory Technologist
- Medical Laboratory Assistant
- Radiology Technologist
- Social Worker
- Occupational Therapist
- Frontline Clinical Managers (Referral Bonus and PRRI only)