CALTC Health Human Resources Insight: Welcoming Newcomers to Bolster Our Workforce

May 26, 2023

The long-term care sector in Canada needs an urgent injection of staff in order to ensure there is sustainability of resident care in the coming years. In this post last week, we detailed the conditions in long-term care homes that have led to workforce burnout. We also noted at last check there were 38,000 vacant long-term care position across the country. To fill those positions, we must look outside of our borders.

While it will take many years to develop a domestic pipeline of talent — laying the groundwork in educational institutions and recruiting people into these programs — there are many talented people abroad who would make a fantastic impact in our sector. Of course, we need to make it easier for these newcomers to come to Canada and do so in an equitable manner.

For CALTC, this means following the World Health Organization’s Global Code of Practice on the International Recruitment of Health Personnel. This also means that the long-term care sector has an onus to ensure safe and equitable workplaces for women and racialized people who are new Canadians. Ensuring that newcomers are also supported throughout their transition to living in Canada is also essential.

Long-term care homes and provincial governments are already taking innovative approaches to source new talent. The government of Nova Scotia recently led a delegation to a Kenyan refugee camp where they successfully recruited 65 health care workers who will come to the province and be employed in the long-term care sector. They’re expected to arrive in the middle of the year and use their breath of knowledge to help Nova Scotian seniors in their day-to-day lives.

In Nova Scotia, the workers arriving from Kenya will be welcomed with housing and other necessary supports to lead successful new lives in the province. These workers were brought from east Africa to the Maritimes through the Employment Mobility Pathways Pilot. This program shows tremendous promise, supporting skilled refugees for a new start and helping Canadian health and long-term care providers to address critical staffing shortages. But it’s not a silver bullet, and the program can still be developed. Expanding the program and supporting employers with a separate funding envelope to provide support for refugees in establishing a new home.

Speeding up our immigration process should also be a priority for leaders in Ottawa. The processing times at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada can be taxing for people trying to come to Canada. To ease the HHR crisis we’re experiencing, we must get more efficient at evaluating visa applications. The federal government has made some initial steps, but there is still more work that needs to be done. While we’re at it, we should also increase the number of annual work visas granted to internationally educated health care professionals.

Unfortunately, getting to Canada is often half the battle for these well-trained and educated newcomers. They quickly face a wall of bureaucracy: The provincial and territorial regulatory college system. This system of different requirements and accreditations depending on where you live puts us at a competitive disadvantage compared to other countries.

Canada is a great country that many around the world want to come to live and work — but we are competing against other similar peer nations such as the United Kingdom and Australia. Those countries do not have the same fragmented regulatory system, instead opting to perform professional accreditation at the national level.

We must make things easier by addressing these labour mobility problems between the various provinces and territories. Streamlining requirements is a good place to start. Recognizing international credentials or establishing straightforward, sensible bridging programs to ensure internationally trained workers have the skills for their field should also be priorities.

With the right strategies and policy changes we can welcome newcomers to the Canadian long-term care sector where they will thrive in our communities and professionally, by supporting residents in long-term care. This is a key component in the strategy to address HHR challenges in health care. CALTC urges all levels of government to take action on this priority.

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