By Mike Williscraft
While Hamilton Health Sciences officials maintain no stone is being left unturned in the search to replenish West Lincoln Memorial Hospital’s depleted operating room nurse roster, many disagree.
In last week’s edition of NewsNow, Rob MacIsaac, HHS’s president and CAO, claimed his team was doing everything possible to buck the trend of a province-wide nursing shortage.
With no improvement in the dwindling staff, MacIsaac announced to staff Friday, Feb. 8, that WLMH would experience weekend closure of the operating room service. The OR move necessitates the “redirection” of expecting moms to other HHS sites, which has yet to be determined.
MacIsaac said he believes this will have little impact on patient flow.
“I think moms will follow their physicians. I think the most important thing that an expectant mother wants is a physician that she likes and trusts, so this model will allow patients to stay with their physicians irrespective of where the baby gets delivered,” said MacIsaac.
“Our experience is, looking back over the last years, that the vast majority of deliveries occur between Monday and Friday. I think this has an impact but it will be relatively few moms who will end up traveling with their physician to another site to deliver their babies.”
However, residents, Citizen Action Committee members and even members of WLMH’s own staff don’t believe a word MacIsaac has uttered since he first announced last Oct. 22 that the aging Grimsby hospital would see a 27-month OR closure to allow for major renovations.
“When I met with Rob and board chair Julia Kamula I asked them if they have started an employee incentive program. They had not. Staff talk. They have classmates. They meet people at conferences and seminars. It’s not rocket science,” said Action Committee co-chair Tony Joosse.
“They noted they have a $30,000 subsidy for moving expense for out of province applicants. I asked if they have anything for in-province applicants. They did not.”
Joosse confirmed Tuesday morning he got confirmation HHS has taken action on his two suggestions as of Saturday.
An email to Joosse from HHS director of HR operations & labour relations Taura Caroscio confirmed this.
“We can absolutely work with the candidate from Orillia to cover relocation expenses up to the 30K relocation bonus that is being offered,” wrote Caroscio, adding, “We are in the final stages of developing a referral bonus that is eligible to all employees for referring a successful OR RN candidate. The referral bonus will be $1,500 and the time commitment that the nurse will have to provide to the OR is a period of six months, at which time the bonus will be paid. Promotion of the referral bonus will begin next week.”
While these two measures have just been initiated in the last week, other steps remain foggy at best.
Joosse said he had someone contact him who attempted to navigate the HHS website to apply and could not find anything appropriate.
“This was someone who was internet savvy, and they simply could not find it,” said Joosse.
Caroscio acknowledged some changes are needed.
“Currently, our HHS page which has been featured in advertising speaks directly to the need for OR Nurses. There is still work to do with our postings page as we have several posting that are currently running across the organization however, to address the “one-click” experience as you mentioned we have had to drive all applicants to an individual posting at this time,” she wrote in response to Joosse’s inquiries.
Joosse said the skepticism relating to HHS’s efforts to fill the OR nurse staffing void going back to early 2018 has sparked new life in the community regarding attention to the plight of WLMH.
“This nurse shortage has re-lit the fire within our West Niagara community,” said Joosse.
“Between calls and emails, I can’t respond quick enough.”
Another issue Joosse cited, which refutes MacIsaac’s claim that everything possible is being done was information he received Friday that HHS has not registered with Health Force Ontario (HFO).
HFO is a marketing and recruitment agency which supports the government’s health workforce objectives and contributes to the planning, recruitment, retention, transition, and distribution of health practitioners in Ontario.”
“Rob claimed HHS has shortages at other sites and services are also vulnerable at those locations, yet, neither WLMH or any HHS facility have been registered on the provincial recruiting site,” said Joosse, as of last Friday.
Despite these various examples from the last week, MacIsaac said last week, “We’re doing all we can to to try to keep our staffing levels up appropriately.”
For Joosse, he said the community cannot wait for HHS to take all appropriate action. He said he has been taking direct calls from potential applicants and he steers them to the proper channels.
He can be contacted at: