British Columbia

Interior Health accused of 'aggressively recruiting' staff from private seniors home

A private care home in Merritt, B.C., is accusing the Interior Health Authority of aggressively recruiting its health care workers by offering them higher wages and better benefits.

Health authority denies recruiting from private care homes

The Florentine Care Home offers assisted living and complex care to residents in the 77-suite private care facility in Merritt, B.C. (Google Maps)

A private care home in Merritt, B.C., is accusing the Interior Health Authority of aggressively recruiting its health care workers by offering them higher wages and better benefits.

Florentine Seniors Residence has lost three licensed practical nurses (LPN) and at least four registered care aides (RCA) to the health authority during the pandemic, according to president Frank Rizzardo.

"They are phoning our staff directly," he said. "It is not a matter of a response to an ad. It's a call to our employee."

Interior Health denies recruiting directly from private care homes and says it uses a centralized hiring process where vacant positions are posted and advertised publicly. 

Rizzardo is adamant the health authority reached out to Florentine employees to offer jobs at an Interior Health-run care home in Merritt and took to social media this week calling for a stop to the practice.

"I had a staff meeting on Monday and at that staff meeting I was told that two of our newest RCAs were called by Interior Health and offered employment," he said in an interview with CBC News.

"We paid LPNs to relocate and then once they are here, they only work a short period of time before they are snapped up by [Interior Health]."

Better pay and benefits

Slightly higher wages and better benefits are some of the things enticing his staff to leave for positions at Interior Health, Rizzardo said.

Some nurses and care aides left in order to take advantage of the Temporary Pandemic Pay program which provided eligible front-line workers a lump-sum payment equal to about $4 an hour for 16 weeks, according to Rizzardo.

Health care workers at private care facilities like Florentine did not qualify for the temporary pay raise.

Florentine Seniors Residence is a 77-suite private care facility that offers assisted living and complex care in the southern Interior city.

The staffing shortage is leading to burnout among his remaining workers, Rizzardo said.

Rizzardo wrote letters to Health Minister Adrian Dix and Interior Health president and CEO Susan Brown calling for an end to the recruiting practices, but he has not heard back from either of them, he said.

Interior Health denies recruiting from private care homes

Interior Health did not agree to an interview with CBC News but provided a written statement denying Rizzardo's claims.

"Employees are hired through a centralized hiring process. Vacant positions open to external applicants are posted and advertised publicly."

Rizzardo said he's not surprised the health authority denied recruiting his staff and said he believes what his employees have told him about the recruitment calls.

The Ministry of Health did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Tap the play button to listen to Frank Rizzardo's interview on Daybreak Kamloops:

Frank Rizzardo, president of Florentine Seniors Residence in Merritt, speaks to Shelley Joyce. 8:38

About the Author

Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan

With files from CBC Daybreak Kamloops

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