A new Northern Health Authority hire is receiving rental assistance by the local health advisory group, marking the continuation of its efforts to bolster and support the local healthcare community.
The assistance, a rental subsidy of $500 a month for six months, is to help the ultrasound technician settle in at the Kitimat General Hospital and within the community, says District of Kitimat councillor Rob Goffinet, a member of the Kitimat Health Advocacy Group (KHAG).
“And we hope news of the subsidy spreads to others interested in coming to Kitimat,” said Goffinet of the assistance offered.
News of the recruitment came from Northern Health at KHAG’s Jan. 13 meeting, the first of the new year.
Formed to improve health care for local residents, KHAG, a committee of the District of Kitimat council, works closely with the Northern Health Authority, said Goffinet.
Last year, for instance, KHAG backed a recruiting effort by Northern Health to find senior, experienced nurses to mentor the nursing complement at Kitimat General Hospital.
Like many northern municipalities, Kitimat struggles to recruit and retain skilled employees of all kinds, Goffinet noted.
“There’s just not a lot of awareness elsewhere of where we live and what we can offer,” said Goffinet.
“We can’t do anything to facilitate contracts – that’s up to the Northern Health Authority. What we can do is offer rental assistance, for example, or perhaps if someone wants to move up to a house, or go for training.”
Money for financial assistance KHAG can provide to healthcare professionals moving to Kitimat comes from a budget provided by the district.
KHAG will apply for annual grants of $15,000 when needed but often doesn’t need to ask for money each year, said Goffinet.
For 2018, Goffinet said KHAG doesn’t see a need to ask Kitimat council for an additional grant.
“We steward the money carefully,” he said. “We do not need a lot of money. We can surgically apply it to individuals to augment what Northern Health can provide and offered beyond its contracts.”
“We’re totally flexible,” Goffinet continued. “We co-operate completely with Northern Health and when they come to us we’ve never said no.”
Kitimat General Hospital has approximately 18 registered nurses and six licensed practical nurses working in various departments such as emergency, operating rooms and acute care.
The current Northern Health career opportunities website lists 10 openings specific to Kitimat, including two registered nurse relief full-time jobs, two registered nurse casual positions, a licensed practical nurse casual position and a licensed practical nurse relief part-time position.
Northern Health Authority official Eryn Collins said its Kitimat recruitment goals remain largely unchanged from last year, saying there is always a need for senior personnel.
“We are not alone in competing to recruit for these positions as a health authority,” she said.
Collins acknowledged the assistance groups like KHAG provide in recruiting people.
“Our experience has shown that when a community gets involved in supporting recruitment efforts, whether for physicians or other healthcare professionals, it has a tremendous impact,” she said.
“While we are recruiting for a position, people are moving to the community (sometimes with family members), and the community lifestyle and services can be a major factor in the decision to take a position.”
Goffinet said KHAG’s efforts help Kitimat stand out among potential healthcare hires given that healthcare professionals are in high demand everywhere.
Goffinet said personal contact with new employees or ones who come north as part of their practicum requirements helps spread the word among other medical personnel that Kitimat is a welcoming place.
“The winters may be long and hard, but we’re warm and friendly,” he said.