By Andrea Arnold

McBride and Valemount medical centres are just two communities across the province experiencing staffing shortages and job vacancies.

Currently there are 10 Northern Health jobs available in McBride, and 11 in Valemount. There are also seven positions listed as “Flexible” and are included in searches for both communities. 

These jobs include cleaner, social worker, nurse, lab/x-ray technician and mental health and addictions clinician. Most of the postings state they will remain open until filled. Only two have a deadline for applications.

“The job vacancy rate has continued to shift upwards,” said Sandra-Lee Rossi, Northern Health Regional Director of Recruitment and Retention. “This has not been the trend only provincially, but we are also seeing shortages nationally and globally.”

As countries around the world struggle to recruit, figuring out how to attract staff to the Robson Valley, as well as other areas within the north is challenging, she said.

Rossi said there were many cases of retirees stepping in to support staff through areas such as vaccine clinics, and there is a chance that some of these individuals may stay on to help fill some of the holes.

Northern Health created a Robson Valley recruitment video that has been viewed over 55,000 times, with 5,500 of these resulting in engagement beginning through the social media platform.

During the vacancies, Northern Health has been deploying staff from temporary staffing agencies, as well as regular staff to the Robson Valley to allow local staff the opportunity to take breaks.

In September 2021, The Ministry of Health committed up to $6.38 million for programs and incentives to encourage more health workers to discover the advantages of working and living in the North. The announcement went on to explain that $3 million would go to the comprehensive health-care worker rural retention program for targeted communities and occupations which offers financial incentives and support for priority health care workers.

As part of this program, Northern Health received $750,000 to develop a housing program  where the housing market is creating a barrier to both long term and short term job placements. The Robson Valley is listed as one of these areas. Northern Health has been faced with accommodation challenges when placing staff as well as practicum students. Valemount currently has a zero vacancy rate with 1,700 pipeline workers staying in the Valemount area.

“We are in conversation with community groups with the goal of building some housing,” said Rossi.

Rossi asks that members of the community visit and share their social media pages in a combined effort to communicate the need for medical professionals and support personnel in the Robson Valley.

“Everyone has a role in recruitment,” she said.