Horizon Health pleads for public help with COVID-19-related staff shortages in Saint John

Click to play video 'Horizon Health seeks help in Saint John COVID-19 outbreak' Horizon Health seeks help in Saint John COVID-19 outbreak
New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network is looking for help as an outbreak in the Saint John area has put a strain on staffing levels. Horizon says it's looking for people from all walks of life to assist where they can for at least the next couple of weeks. Tim Roszell has the story – Nov 27, 2020

Horizon Health Network is asking the public for help as an outbreak of COVID-19 in the Saint John area has put extra strain on staffing levels.

There are 101 Horizon employees not at work “due to COVID-19 related reasons” as of Nov. 27, according to numbers obtained by Global News. Sixty-eight of those absences are in Saint John.

Kerry Kennedy, the regional manager of talent acquisition and workforce management with Horizon, said the network has reactivated its redeployment centre, where existing Horizon employees are shifted to other roles within the organization to fill needs at that time.

Kennedy said there are 35 people who have already been redeployed and others waiting. Retired staff and students have also offered support.

READ MORE: New Brunswick reports 12 new COVID-19 cases, ends Atlantic bubble

But she said Horizon is looking for help from the public in areas like housekeeping, data entry and clinical support.

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“So we have, currently, 200 applications that we’re going through of interest,” Kennedy said. “And we’ve sent out offer letters to close to 30 now, and 20 are ready to be deployed.”

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New workers could be sent to COVID-19 assessment centres, where Kennedy noted a “huge need” for administrative assistance.

Former New Brunswick health minister Mary Schryer used Twitter to respond to the call for help.

“Count me in,” she wrote.

Schryer said she’s not sure how she can assist, but said she wants to help.

“I thought, ‘well, I’ll just apply,'” Schryer said. “‘I’ll put my name in and say I’m here to help. If you need me, I’m here.’ And I think it’s really important that people just step up and say whatever I can do.”

READ MORE: Saint John businesses fear potential move to red phase COVID-19 restrictions

Kennedy said each new hire would be trained onsite and online and could be on the job within days.

“E-learning would give them an overview of specific policies we need to draw their attention to,” Kennedy began. “So, confidentiality being one, handwashing being another and the proper PPE (personal protective equipment).”

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Schryer said she is not surprised so many people have lined up — virtually — to help out.

“I know that the spirit’s there,” Schryer said. “We’ve always had this spirit in the greater Saint John area and in the province of New Brunswick that people are willing to roll their sleeves up and to help, in any capacity, for the greater good.”

Kennedy said the need for more hands is greatest in the Saint John region, but Horizon is accepting applications from all over New Brunswick. She said that will help the network be ready to call in some already identified reinforcements in the event of staffing concerns in other parts of the province.