Article content

The Saskatchewan Health Authority aims to hire 150 permanent, full-time nursing and laboratory staff from the Philippines this year to bulk up a health-care system hammered and depleted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We apologize, but this video has failed to load.
Try refreshing your browser, or
tap here to see other videos from our team.
Sask. turns to Philippines to address health-care labour shortage Back to video

Health-care unions expressed support for any efforts to fill the gap — but noted foreign workers must be supported.

“We could not be without our Filipino nurses,” Saskatchewan Union of Nurses President Tracy Zambory said. “They are a gigantic asset and we could not run without them. We just have to make sure that we are taking lessons from the past.”

Saskatchewan sent a delegation to the Philippines in 2008 as part of a hiring blitz to recruit 800 new registered nurses. University of Calgary assistant professor of sociology Naomi Lightman, who studies migration and care work, said such recruitment drives are not uncommon.

“There’s an entire industry built in the Philippines to train and then export (staff) to work in health care in other, typically wealthier countries,” Lightman said.

As of 2016, Statistics Canada estimated nearly a quarter of nurse aides, orderlies and similar professionals in Saskatchewan were immigrants — more than twice the share of newcomers working in all other jobs. The same study found nearly 30 per cent of such professionals across Canada were Filipino, the vast majority women.

SEIU-West President Barb Cape said she was surprised the SHA was only seeking 150 staff. She said there are more than 1,000 job vacancies in the SHA, many of them on a “hard to recruit” list.

Article content

Statistics Canada data show there were 330 vacancies in professional nursing positions in Saskatchewan at the end of the third quarter of 2021, compared to 220 in the prior quarter. Cape said she believes some of those issues are chronic, but COVID-19 has resulted in hundreds of staff reducing hours, looking for new work or leaving the field altogether.

Cape and Zambory said the SHA must take steps to ensure new arrivals settle in comfortably. Cape said many staff from the Philippines who came in 2008 and the following years did not stay, in part because of issues with professional skills but also because workplaces were not ready to help them get used to working in a radically different country and environment.

“When we were there in 2008, we did not prepare the workplace. We did not prepare those incoming health care professionals for our style of health care,” Cape said.

Lightman said workers from the Philippines, while essential to Canada’s health-care system, face hurdles in having their accreditations recognized, meaning they often work jobs for which they are overqualified. Getting the equivalent accreditation in Canada can be costly.

Cape said she knows a worker who was trained as a registered nurse but can only work as a continuing care aide, a job that pays less. Lightman said she believes hiring drives should offer a way to get equivalent credentials and, ideally, for people to establish permanent residency and citizenship.

This content was originally published here.