The first cohorts of nurses recruited abroad for regional hospitals begin working as such this fall. Some 600 of the 1,000 professionals have been found so far, even if the majority of them will stay far from the territories prioritized by the government in its quest to regionalize the workforce.
Around forty nurses are arriving as reinforcements this month in Gaspésie from Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo. They join the forty other arrivals last year who are completing their additional studies this fall. “For the health system in Gaspésie, this is excellent news,” rejoices the director of human resources of the local CIUSSS, Alain Vézina. In terms of nurses, we often say that around a hundred people are missing in Gaspésie. »
They form the first large cohorts of nurses from immigrant backgrounds destined for the regions. Quebec has vowed to welcome 1,000 in the spring of 2022 and to prioritize 7 regions facing severe shortages: Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Côte-Nord, Bas-Saint-Laurent, Gaspésie, Saguenay–Lac -Saint-Jean, James Bay and Outaouais.
However, only 200 have been hired in these parts of the country. The lion’s share of this thousand goes to the greater regions of Montreal and Quebec. The few dozen new recruits are therefore welcome everywhere, but insufficient. For Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean alone, the shortage is in the hundreds. These reinforcements from abroad will not be able to reverse the serious trends.
Ditto in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. “In the short term, it’s a success. This will help. But, even with these hirings, it does not reverse the trend,” confirms the local president of the Federation of Nurses of Quebec in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, Jean Sébastien Blais.
Advantages and obstacles
The small proportion of this recruitment intended for the regions risks becoming even thinner, since a significant number of foreign nurses do not complete their training, or even drop out along the way. For example, out of 33 hires in Abitibi, the local union recorded 8 departures or failures.
However, the program comes with interesting benefits. Candidates receive a stipend of $500 per week for the duration of the training. Tuition fees, application fees for equivalence to the Order and the cost of additional training are all covered by the Ministry of Immigration. A bill of $65 million over two years is associated with this project.
This first attempt to install health workers in the regions of Quebec must also pass the test of time.There is no guarantee that nurses, even those trained in regional colleges, will stay on site once their first contracts have ended. Isolated environments sometimes retain as little as 10% of the workforce initially hired.
“These are people who come to settle in Gaspésie and who will have to develop a feeling of belonging for the region, but also for the organization,” notes Alain Vézina. “The key is precisely the work we are currently doing to welcome them well, to integrate them well. »
The first challenge is to find accommodation to shelter them in their new corner of the country. The CIUSSS de la Gaspésie also made an appeal last week to its entire population in order to find a home for these dozens of new arrivals.
This report is supported by the Local Journalism Initiative, funded by the Government of Canada.