CANSO – Nine months after the nighttime closure of Eastern Memorial Hospital’s ER brought the community together to help find solutions to the nursing shortage behind the closure, there is hope on the horizon. The efforts of the Canso Stakeholders Group leading the local effort, in collaboration with the Nova Scotia Health Authority, are paying off, with three new Registered Nurses and their families – including school-age children – moving into the community this spring.
“Right now it looks like we have one nurse starting in March, one in May and one in June,” Stakeholder Group co-chair Susan O’Handley told The Journal Sunday. “As long as nothing goes sideways with their plans, those three full-time positions will be filled.”
Hospital Administrator Leona Purcell says she is pleased with the recruiting success, but notes that the hires are conditional, “until we complete the hiring process, including licensing with the N.S. College of Nurses.”
The new hires are also subject to an orientation period at the Canso hospital, including a competency assessment for work in the ER. Based on that assessment, the orientation period could be extended, says Purcell. None of the three recruits currently has emergency department experience.
“So I can't put a time frame on how long it would take for someone to work independently there (in ER),” she said. Acquiring those skills could also involve taking emergency medicine courses.
The Working Group’s efforts received financial support from the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, which also added to the NSHA incentive for new nurses with its own $10,000 incentive for each new hire of a nurse or doctor in Canso or Guysborough.
Two of the new nurses hail from Ontario, the third from British Columbia.
The Canso Stakeholders Group will next meet in March. O’Handley said there may be a larger community meeting coming up to engage all interested parties in a discussion of options for the future of healthcare in the community.
While the orientation period unfolds, options such as opening the medical unit to care for local residents who are ill, before the facility’s ER is ready to reopen 24 hours, should be discussed, says O’Handley.
“It’s important that the community has some say and the Health Authority is legislated to have public consultation…Now that we have this very good Working Group, with NSHA and the community collaborating, it’s important to keep that going to make sure our voices are heard and everyone knows what is going on and we have plans in place to address every possible situation that could occur.”
Both the Working Group and NSHA know that healthcare staffing needs in Canso will continue. There is a nurse retirement coming up soon and work on doctor recruitment will likely be an upcoming need as retirements approach.
In terms of the success of recruitment efforts this winter, O’Handley says the group is excited about it. “It’s awesome to think that we’ll have three new families moving to town with children.”
The Working Group received more good news recently. A new $10,000 grant from the Province will support work in making Canso an even more welcoming community “and maybe having a larger presence on Internet, for the whole community…We might also host some special events to bring the community together and welcome new families to the community.”
Purcell noted the good work of the community group in these recruitment efforts, and the positive experience of the two parties – NSHA and the community – working together to get solutions to healthcare staffing challenges.