Quebec is turning to immigration to boost staffing in its overwhelmed long-term care centres as the novel coronavirus crisis continues to shine a light on the challenges facing elder care in the province.
Immigration Minister Simon Jolin-Barrette announced a pilot project on Thursday to hire 550 orderlies from abroad to work in the facilities known as CHSLDs.
“The needs are urgent,” he said.
The announcement comes one day after Premier François Legault announced the province is launching a recruitment campaign to hire 10,000 orderlies in response to critical staffing shortages in long-term care homes.
A report from the military, whose members have been helping to care for residents in Quebec’s long-term care homes during the pandemic, has pointed to staffing as a major challenge in those facilities.
READ MORE: Quebec long-term care homes grappling with major challenges, military report outlines
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Amid the health crisis, Jolin-Barrette said the ministry wants to proceed quickly and has already undertaken virtual recruitment missions abroad to identify potential short-term candidates.
The province is looking for potential applicants with two years of work experience equivalent to that of an orderly in their country of origin and who pledge to commit to working for at least two years in a long-term care home.
Since 2013, Quebec has only accepted 115 immigrants who are orderlies — but officials say the province is lacking nearly 10,000 workers in its CHSLDs.
Jolin-Barrette said there will be more details about the pilot program in the weeks to come and it will “make the rules clearer.”
“We are still working on it,” he said.
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What about asylum seekers on the front lines?
As the health crisis continues to bear down on long-term care homes, community organizations and advocates have called for better protection for asylum workers on the front lines of the crisis.
Legault, for his part, said earlier this week that the province would take a closer look at their cases to see if they could be eligible for a path to citizenship as immigrants instead of through the federal refugee system.
When asked about the pledge, Jolin-Barrette said that the was looking into those files as requested by Legault.
He did not provide details, but said that Quebec is looking at arrangements with Ottawa over the proposal.
“We are looking at that right now to find some some solutions,” he said.
READ MORE: Quebec nurses, health-care workers protest working conditions, lack of vacations
— With files from the Canadian Press