FOI document shines spotlight on staffing shortage in B.C. long-term care

The Gateby care facility in Vernon, B.C. Megan Turcato / Global News

A document received following a freedom of information request (FOI) is shining a spotlight on the staffing shortage in long-term care.

Records obtained showed a large number of vacant full- and part-time positions at the Gateby long-term care facility in Vernon, B.C. in early October.

At that point the 75-bed, Interior Health-operated facility had eight vacant licensed practical nurse positions and nine empty nursing assistant positions.

Bill VanGorder, chief policy officer at the Canadian Association of Retire Persons (CARP), said “unfortunately, it is not at all unusual.”

“We are seeing it right across the province and indeed right across the country with a terrible lack of staffing in the health system and it is especially acute in long-term care facilities,” VanGorder said.

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How do we solve Canada’s LTC staffing shortage?

VanGorder said nationally the issue is a big concern for CARP’s members.

“Even some … who live in these facilities are very, very concerned because they know when there aren’t enough workers. Then people just don’t get the care that they need,” said VanGorder.

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“It is not for lack of trying from the existing staff (and) management who are doing their best to have the highest quality care they can. They need the government also to get behind it and give them even more support and do it now.”

To address the shortages nationally, CARP would like to see wages increased, more done to encourage internationally trained staff to come work in Canada and more incentives for international students to stay and work in Canada.

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The organization also suggests making it easier for family and friends to go into facilities to provide care.

The BCGEU, which represents many staff members at Gateby including nursing assistants, declined to provide an interview but in a statement said wages are a big factor.

“BCGEU members at Gateby Care Facility and across the long-term care sector go above and beyond every day to provide vital services that families rely on. Recruitment and retention has been a major issue in the sector for years and low wages are one of the primary causes,” said the statement from union president Stephanie Smith.

“That’s why wage increases and wage protections are a top priority for the BCGEU and other healthcare unions in the current round of public sector bargaining. As those agreements get ratified and come into effect, we hope to see staffing pressures eased but we will monitor the progress closely.”

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Interior Health did not provide anyone for an interview on Wednesday but said staffing conditions at Gateby have improved since October.

Vacant Positions at Gateby as of Oct. 3, 2022. Global News
Filled jobs at Gateby as of Oct. 3, 2022. Global News


Correction: In an earlier version of this article the BCGEU president was misidentified as Stephanie Smart. The union’s president is in fact, Stephanie Smith. The story has been updated to reflect the corrected information.   


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