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With over 200 vacancies, Sault Area Hospital in recruiting mode

Just over 50 per cent of vacancies are in nursing, hospital official says
20190215-SAH winter-DT
Darren Taylor/SooToday

If you are a healthcare professional looking for a job, Sault Area Hospital says it is hiring.

“The hospital is experiencing unprecedented recruitment volume as the organization implements alternate staffing models including the introduction of Personal Support Workers to support inpatient units,” wrote Ila Watson, SAH president and CEO in a written report prepared for Monday’s SAH board of directors regular monthly meeting.

“The multi-year recruitment and retention strategy is underway and the team is focused on ensuring opportunities are maximized to recruit externally and increase overall resourcing,” Watson wrote.

“It’s really great to hear…I was very happy to read that. It’s great news,” said board member Johanne Messier-Mann at Monday’s meeting.

“It is good news. The high volume is also somewhat of a challenge for leadership to manage, and for the HR people to manage, but we have some good plans in place,” Watson replied.

At September’s SAH board meeting, Watson acknowledged that registered nurses are in short supply across the health care system, pointing to a Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario report stating that the province entered the COVID-19 pandemic nearly 22,000 RNs short compared to the rest of Canada.

Watson said the shortage is deeply rooted in governmental fiscal restraint over the past 30 years.

“The number of open vacancies being actively recruited has hovered around 200 for several weeks,” wrote Rose Calibani, SAH communications and public affairs officer in an email to SooToday on Wednesday.

The vacancy rate is driven by what is being described as higher than pre-pandemic attrition rates, continued high levels of absenteeism due to COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses and an increased patient demand for overall health services. 

Just over 50 per cent of the 200 open vacancies at SAH are in nursing, including 73 registered nurse positions and 36 registered practical nurse positions, Calibani wrote.  

The remaining 50 per cent includes various other registered and non-registered health professionals and administrative and support roles. 

“In 2022 so far, we have hired more than 300 new hires into both permanent and temporary/contract roles, including approximately 100 nurses (RN and RPN),” Calibani wrote.

SAH says it is actively recruiting for all open positions and reaching out to new graduates as well as internationally educated nurses and other health professionals. 

The hospital recently received approval to hire up to 20 nurses under the Community Commitment Program for Nurses.

The Ontario government’s Community Commitment Program for Nurses provides $25,000 in grant funding to eligible nurses in exchange for a two-year commitment to an eligible employer.

“It would be our goal to hire as many new nurses as possible in the coming months and years,” Calibani wrote.

As far as the need for doctors in the community is concerned, there are currently two urologists in practice and a third is expected to arrive in March, wrote Christine Pagnucco, Sault Ste. Marie Physician Recruitment & Retention Program manager in a recent email. 

High priority needs are:

  • Obstetricians/Gynecologists
  • Family Medicine
  • Psychiatrists
  • General Internists
  • Hospitalists

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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