By CONNIE GIBBS
As a hospice society volunteer, I visit patients in Lady Minto Hospital (LMH) every week.
Frequently I notice new faces among the staff. These are the temporary staff: nurses and health care assistants who travel from outside the community to support our hospital and local staff. It’s Heather Stone’s job to ensure health care staff are recruited, welcomed, housed and supported so Lady Minto can continue to provide the care people need.
“Affordable accommodation supplied by Salt Spring homeowners is a huge, huge part of welcoming health care workers into the community,” says Heather Stone. “If temporary staff have a good housing experience, they are more likely to return which means our orientation efforts were put to good use.”
Staff travelling from out of community to support LMH include licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and health care assistants.
In order to house temporary staff, Heather Stone must find affordably priced accommodation that can range from two weeks to multiple months depending on the contract length.
The proximity to Lady Minto is important because the majority of temporary staff do not have access to a vehicle while working locally. The bus schedule on our island doesn’t match well with shift schedules at the hospital.
Caren Fennell works in the Acute Care Unit. She has been renting her suite to temporary nurses and health care assistants for over a year.
“It’s been a good experience for us. The six hospital staff who have used our suite at different times have all been respectful and nice. We can keep using the suite for family visitors, and help the hospital too.”
It’s not just temporary staff that need accommodation. The hospital is always looking for affordable long-term housing for permanent health care staff. The Lady Minto Hospital Foundation has set up a housing information portal, a password protected webpage only accessible to current or prospective Island Health staff. Homeowners can submit their listing to the portal and staff would reach out directly about housing. Homeowners can submit their rental listings to: ladymintofoundation.com/projects/hip/portal.
Requirements for short-term housing include:
• Fully furnished;
• within a 10-minute walk or drive to LMH;
• kitchen, bathroom, bedroom, internet and utilities.
Heather reminds me that health care staff include a long list of positions beyond doctors and nurses: lab and medical imaging technicians, lab assistants, administration, physiotherapists, rehab assistants, activity assistants, social workers, health records clerks, admitting clerks, nursing unit clerks, housekeepers, laundry, maintenance and kitchen workers. These positions are “absolutely imperative to the functioning of the hospital,” according to Heather.
It’s stating the obvious to say there is a worldwide health care staffing shortage as well as a housing crisis and there are no quick fixes. Doesn’t it make sense for Salt Spring homeowners to do everything possible to support Lady Minto staff? I don’t have additional housing but I can offer my house (and be remunerated) whenever we take a vacation just in case our empty house might match a temporary housing need at Lady Minto.
It will take a community effort from those who have the resources to help house temporary and permanent health care staff working at Lady Minto Hospital. We can’t simply wait for new construction of workforce rental accommodation. It’s taking far too long.
If you can help with long-term or short-term housing for hospital staff, submit your listing on the LMH Foundation website listed above or contact Heather Stone at Lady Minto Hospital through the Google form at the following short link to see if your suite is a good fit: bit.ly/3KCnRmF.