Plans underway to settle health-care workers from Kenya in Nova Scotia

Plans are underway to make sure health-care workers recruited from Kenya will have what they need to start their new lives in Nova Scotia following a provincial recruitment trip to refugee camps, as well as the capital Nairobi.

Housing should be available before people arrive, according to the federal program that jump-started the hiring initiative. That’s why long-term care provider MacLeod Group has bought three homes for its workers in In Mahone Bay and is in the market for more.

“We are doing this to try to retain employees as well,” explained Doug Stephens, MacLeod Group’s general manager of human resources. “We thought it was important we look at housing options within our community.”

MacLeod Group health services, which was part of the delegation to Kenya in October, has made about 50 job offers. In total, conditional job offers have been made to about 90 people who are now going through the immigration process to work as continuing care assistants. This total includes 65 offers recently announced by the province.

It has been trying all of the traditional hiring methods but has not been able to find enough qualified staff through those.

Representatives from Nova Scotia at Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya as part of an October delegation seeking workers for the province’s long-term care system. (MacLeod Health Group Services)

“We realized we needed to be more creative in our recruitment initiatives,” said Stephens.

‘These are people that already have trained skills’

MacLeod operates 13 long-term care and private retirement facilities in the Maritimes and is building a new one in Mahone Bay that is expected to open in late summer or early fall.

That facility alone requires about 120 staff, a big jump from the 60 employees currently working at its existing site in the community.

“The need to double our workforce has been a challenge for us,” Stephens said. “These are people that already have trained skills and are looking for an opportunity to use those skills.”

He met some of those people in October at the Kakuma camp in the country’s northwest where about 250,000 displaced people are living after fleeing Somalia, Burundi, Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan, among the countries.

“Some were doing home care, some were doing public health work, some were working in trauma centres. So there is a wide range of experience,” he said, adding the new employees will add to the diversity of the community when they arrive.

A home with snow on the roof and beige colored siding is shown with a dark gray and metallic blue car parked outside.This home next to the long-term care facility under construction in Mahone Bay has been bought by the MacLeod Group for continuing care workers recruited in Kenya. (Patrick Callaghan/CBC)

All of those moving to Nova Scotia will be able to work as continuing care assistants (CCAs) when they get here, and will then work toward getting certified as CCA’s.

“They will go through our recognized prior learning process. Their academics and work experience would be assessed to determine the appropriate training they need once they arrive,” said Heather Jussup, a senior human resources consultant with the Health Association of Nova Scotia and the program lead for the recruitment and retention program.

Jussup was also on the trip to Kenya.

All of the applicants are from nursing or continuing care backgrounds and needed to demonstrate minimum language skills to receive conditional offers, she said.

The first workers could arrive in the next few months

The workers are being recruited through the Economic Mobility Pathways Pilot which identifies refugees who have skills and offers a number of supports to help them immigrate to Canada as permanent residents.

Under the program, about fourteen workers have arrived in Pictou County in the past year and a half where they have already been making a big difference, according to Sean Fraser, who is an MP in the area and the minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship .

“I have seen it with my own eyes. There are people who are able to receive care in a long-term care facility in my community that are now still living in the same community where their grandkids are being raised because they have access to a talented person who is helping provide care,” Fraser said.

The MacLeod Group is hoping to welcome its first few workers in the next couple of months, Stephens said.

The rest are expected to land in Canada later this year and will head to work with MacLeod Group and various employers throughout Nova Scotia.

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