It’s being called an emergency by the B.C. Care Providers Association (BCCPA) — the severe shortage of care aides in the province.
With an older demographic, the Okanagan and other parts of B.C.’s Interior have been especially hard hit.
The BCCPA said in the Okanagan Valley alone, there are currently 139 full-time care aide positions that urgently need to be filled.
Now a Penticton care home is taking matters into its own hands in trying to cope with the shortage.
“We are trying to come up with different ways, think outside the box to solve this problem and get more people interested in this career,” Haven Hill general manager Zander Cook told Global News.
With a grant from WorkBC, Haven Hill has partnered up with Sprott Shaw College to offer a free, 29-week course to 16 people wanting to become a care aide.
“We are so excited,” Cook said. “Because of the emergency situation that we are in right now, we have applied in the past to get this grant and we are just so blessed to have it right now. The timing could not be any better.”
The first group of eight will begin the program in June. The next group of eight will start in August.
“They will have to work for us for two years after they graduate the program and get their registry number,” care manager Jolene Gagne said. “So it kind of guarantees us 16 new care aides for next year.”
Cook said the course would normally cost almost $10,000 per student.
“It has been a difficult roller coaster ride for the past little while,” he said. “We will be getting these 16 new people over the next eight months, so we are just really excited to have them come to get through this tough time.”
Haven Hill is currently short nine full-time care aides, making it challenging for both staff and the residents they care for.
“People aren’t getting to the bathroom as quick as they want to go to the bathroom, baths aren’t being done and we are only giving one bath a week. So if they are not getting it that week, it’s laying over until there is enough staff to fill that void,” care aide Toresa Delain said. “You don’t have as much time to feed people and sit with them, make them feel comfortable.”
What’s frustrating to many in the industry is that there is a surplus of care aides with proper credentials from other provinces, but government red tape is making it difficult for them to work in B.C.
Haven Hill hopes by sharing its story, it will give other care homes some ideas on how to combat the current shortage.
“They can try and do the same thing that we are doing here. I don’t know what the funds that are available out there at this time but hopefully they can do the same thing that we are doing and get some more people,” Cook said.
Haven Hill will host an information session for anyone interested in the free program this Friday from 10 a.m. until noon at the care home on Haven Hill Road.
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