Prince Rupert forum answers questions, addresses health care staff shortages

Three people sit at a table with a red table cloth on a stage in front of a screen.
Tom Soames (left), Julia Pemberton (middle), and Ciro Panessa (right) answer questions following presentations that focused on health care staffing shortages. Photo by Morgyn Budden.
Morgyn Budden - CFNR - TerraceBC | 31-08-2022
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Prince Rupert’s local MLA Jennifer Rice held a health forum on Monday night to address staffing shortages and answer resident’s questions.

Two presentations were given by local healthcare professionals, before a question and answer portion was opened for the audience.

Julia Pemberton, the Health Services Administrator for Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii, gave the first presentation to talk about staff recruitment and retainment.

Pemberton stated that facilities in her area are working with an average of 50 per cent less staff compared to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Though Pemeberton claims that due to the Rural Retention Incentive program that was started in 2021, the number of staff members leaving the job has decreased thanks to housing and various support services being provided.

Tom Soames was next up on the stage. Soames is the District Manager for Clinical Operations for B.C. Emergency Health Services, and addressed the worries around the staffing crisis that emergency health services are also currently facing. Soames says that currently the district is working with 35 percent of the historical numbers of staff.

Soames talked about a recent change to the staffing model, which now consists of structuring a schedule based on call volume for each community, and touched on the hiring of a new advanced care paramedic who starts the position on Sept. 20 and will handle the advanced duties that community care paramedics do not. 

Following the presentations, Ciro Panessa, who is currently working in Terrace as Chief Operating Officer for Northern Health in the northwest, answered many of the questions that were raised by attendees. 

One resident asked a question that they said was shared by many other people they’ve talked to, which is the concern of many services being discontinued due to the new hospital in Terrace now offering the same services. Panessa responded saying that as far he knows that is not the case, as Northern Health is working to provide specialized services to as many communities in the northwest as possible. 

Jennifer Rice ended the forum by talking about the new $3-million bursary program that was announced by the government on Aug. 23, which will support health care assistants that are registered for the access to practical nursing program.

Listen to the full radio story below: