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Interior Health CEO says staffing struggles continue at Penticton hospital

Avenues like education support and a new collective agreement are hoped to help the issue
The Penticton Regional Hospital and other Interior Health facilities are still struggling with staffing after the pandemic. (File photo)

The need for adequate staffing and how to tackle it was one of several topics that Interior Health’s CEO Sue Brown spoke on during a June 29 visit to Penticton Regional Hospital.

Brown has been visiting various communities in the health region to tour facilities and speak with staff and volunteers. During her time in Penticton, Brown sat down with local media to discuss staffing levels.

“I would say based on the meetings that we’ve had here this morning, yes, there’s a couple of areas that we’re still short and we’re doing everything we can to attract whether it be nurses or allied health professionals,” said Brown.

Brown acknowledged that Interior Health, like many other employers, was seeing difficulties in filling all of the positions needed, particularly after the heavy strain and attrition brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have intensively been focusing on recruitment and retention over the last I would say three years,” said Brown. “We saw through the pandemic shifts in the workforce and then of course, still are recovering from some of the loss.”

Brown noted that not all of those missing positions came from losses, but rather some openings have come as Interior Health expanded their services, including into more mental health and community services.

“That has actually increased our base demand on the number of staff we need, so we’re not only recruiting for core services but to add new services,” said Brown. “So that does add some more strain.”

One of the things that will hopefully help is the new collective agreement for nurses in B.C., which comes with incentives to attract nurses to the province.

READ MORE: Keremeos health centre lab still struggling with staffing

Interior Health is also working to try and attract new people even while their finishing up their post-secondary education and degrees. That includes training opportunities and options for supervised early employment and practice while in school.

“So when they graduate, we hope there’s a connection, a connectivity with a particular unit or a particular group and then obviously, it makes it easier for them to join a team that they already know.”

Unfortunately, the lack of specialized staff has wider ranging impacts in Interior Health, as is the case with lab technicians. Due to the priority of the Penticton Regional Hospital, and overall shortages, it means places like the lab at the South Similkameen Health Centre have had to cut services.

There is no timeline for when there will be enough staff for it to fully reopen.

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Brennan Phillips

About the Author: Brennan Phillips

Brennan was raised in the Okanagan and is thankful every day that he gets to live and work in one of the most beautiful places in Canada.
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