The Pines Long Term Care Home in Bracebridge is looking to fill staff vacancies, now more than ever.

Norm Barrette, the District of Muskoka’s Commissioner of Health Services, says the province’s upcoming deadline mandating all LTC staff to be fully vaccinated is bringing some concerns to light. 

He says for the past six weeks the Pines has followed the Ministry’s COVID-19 protocols which require employees to disclose their vaccination status to their employer. 

“So employees have to let the administration know if they are fully vaccinated or not. For those employees who are not fully vaccinated there is a mandatory education session that they have to complete and they have to complete rapid testing when they come into the home at least twice a week.”

Earlier this month, the province announced mandatory vaccination policies are coming into force on November 15. 

Barette says there are currently 207 staff members at the Pines, and as of Tuesday, 85 percent are fully vaccinated with 32 staff members who are not vaccinated. 

However, he adds the home currently has 35 vacancies across all disciplines.

Barrette says that means once the policy is implemented, and assuming no additional staff members get vaccinated by the deadline, the Pines would be looking at “significant operational challenges”.

He says right now the home is in a significant staffing challenge and continues to recruit, but there are very few candidates. 

“If a number of staff are not able to work because of a provincial policy, there are no other readily available people who are qualified, ready and looking to come work at the homes,” says Barrette. […] “We’ve basically saturated the workplace for people who are interested in working as [personal support workers] or registered practical nurses or nurses and other support team members,” he says.

“So we are working on contingencies. We’re aggressively working with staffing agencies across the province to help identify staff who may not be in the Muskoka area who are willing to travel from the GTA,” says Barrette.

To date, Barrette says there have not been any vaccination-related terminations. “We currently do not have our policy in place in terms of how we are going to provide information to staff members who are not fully vaccinated. Our human resources department is working through to establish what those procedures will be,” he adds. 

Barrette is encouraging anyone who is considering a career in care that now is a great time to join the force.

“If you have a neighbour or a family member that might be interested please reach out and let them know that not only is there fantastic financial support in place but certainly the community is in great need of people to come and help residents in long term care,” says Barrette.