Opportunity does indeed await people looking to secure work in the health care industry.

Following up on what was noted by Meadow Lake mayor Merlin Seymour at a recent city council meeting, Saskatchewan Health Authority officials have confirmed the need to hire additional staff at the new long-term care facility in Meadow Lake. The facility is expected to open later this summer.

“The move-in is still planned for mid-July,” stated Neal Sylvestre, the SHA’s executive director of continuing care for the Northwest. “Recruitment, however, has been a challenge in the community of Meadow Lake. The challenge lies in the professional nursing component, the RNs and, to a lesser degree, the LPNs. We also need some CCA’s (continuing care aides) and cooks. In the meantime, we are continuing to work to get all those folks in place.”

In December 2019, the SHA issued a call for tenders to determine which company would be hired to construct the new, multi-million dollar, 72-bed long-term care home north of Meadow Lake which will replace the current 55-bed lodge located on 3rd Street West. Binder Construction of Edmonton was ultimately hired, while the project itself is being funded by the province, as well as the city and RM of Meadow Lake. The new and larger facility will improve access and better meet the needs of local and area residents who require a high level of continuing care.

“We’re basically going from 55 beds to a 72-bed facility, and that means a significant increase in staffing,” Sylvestre said. “As we were working on schedules and rotations, and offering those out, certainly a lot of shuffling happened in terms of people applying for and being awarded new positions. But, being able to successfully recruit and bring people into the community has posed a challenge for us.”

As Sylvestre noted, the plans is for the new facility – known as the Northwest Community Lodge – to still open this summer.

“Essentially, what we’re planning to do is to bring over the staff we currently have who are caring for and supporting the residents we have now,” he said. “We’ll move to the new home in mid-July and accommodate all of those folks, but we’re only going to accommodate those folks. Our plan is not to immediately ramp up to 72 residents because we simply do not have the staff to safely do that.”

Sylvestre said part of this is because of the recruitment challenge, but also because of commitments already made to existing staff regarding vacation time.

“We also still need to do everything we must with respect to training,” he added. “We’re adopting a somewhat different model of care for the new Northwest Community Lodge. In terms of the work flow and how departments will be working together, all of those things, that is going to take some training and some dedication to get it right, and we need to get it right. We’re taking a very cautious and necessary approach there.”

Sylvestre also said the goal will be to ramp up to the full 72 beds as soon as it can safely happen.

“It is just a matter of time,” he said. “There are a couple of provincial initiatives that are happening, and we’re part of both of them. One of them is an international RN recruitment initiative the province is working toward, and the other is a federally supported continuing care aide program.”

In closing, Sylvestre said a new yet very important service that will be offered at the new lodge is an adult day program.

“It’s a new service that will be available at the Northwest Community Lodge,” he reiterated. “It’s community focused where seniors will be able to come to the lodge during daytime hours and receive care, programming and more. We have adult day programs in other communities and it’s a very good program. Our focus also remains on recruitment and, in time, we will have our staff for the adult day program as well.”

by Phil Ambroziak