Windsor·Q&A

Hotel-Dieu Grace looking at 'new approach' to address staffing shortages: president

As it struggles with a shortage of nurses, Windsor's Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is re-evaluating its model of care.

Staffing crunch exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic

Bill Marra, president and CEO of Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, said the hospital is beginning the process of revamping its model of care as it struggles with staffing shortages. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

As it struggles with a shortage of nurses, Windsor's Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is re-evaluating its approach and considering adding other types of professionals to assist nursing staff.

But president and CEO Bill Marra assures no jobs will be lost. The move is part of a number of things the hospital is doing to make up for the staffing shortages. 

CBC News contacted Ontario Nurses' Association Local 8, which represents employees at the hospital, but didn't receive comment in time for publication.

Marra spoke about the process to CBC News on Thursday. Here's some of what he had to say.

Take us through what you're seeing right now in terms of staffing shortages at Hotel-Dieu Grace.

The challenges that we're experiencing today hasn't happened overnight, nor has it been created, or caused, by the COVID pandemic. It's been exacerbated, certainly magnified the challenge that's really been experienced, in my opinion, across the country as it relates to health-care workers and the nursing challenges.

Windsor-Essex finds itself, as always, is ... in a very unique circumstance, because what further aggravates our conditions is the fact that we're, you know, competing with very lucrative positions and signing bonuses for nurses that are across the border.

One of the strategies we are exploring is the use of unregulated caregivers where it's appropriate. So as you likely know, this is not a novel concept by any means, but it's really introducing the use of personal support workers, patient care, personal aide workers, personal care attendants, for example, that would work and assist nursing staff.

Can you give me some numbers for what you're seeing right now in terms of shortages? 

As of about three months ago, when we first started reporting this publicly, there were about 14 or 15 positions that we couldn't fill. And it may not seem like a lot, but it certainly impacts any organization. And also, we've had significant absences because of COVID. So, for example, the most recent set of numbers is that we've had about 100 employees impacted by COVID. A quarter of them are still recovering at home. Many are testing to work. What we've also realized is the burnout impact where we're seeing that impact ... is on the sick calls. ... Every morning, the on-call reports come in and in every morning there are concerns around how do we replace sick calls? Where do we reallocate staff?

What does this mean for quality of care?

Quality of care has not been impacted, and that's just a complete tribute to our front-line staff, to our operations managers and to our directors. It's such an all-hands-on-deck environment. I had the opportunity to go on rounds a couple of days ago and visited a couple of nursing units, and yes, they are tired. They are very, very focused, though, on their patient care.

What happens next?

Our clinical leadership team is undergoing the development of a plan for the development of a new model of care approach, with a focus on our restorative care beds. That will require planning discussions, engagement with internal folks, working with our union leaders as well. There will be no job losses. We may not fill some of those vacancies that I referred to earlier, but no job losses. ... If anything, we're just going to be developing a new approach, new roles and responsibilities. Once approved by the board, then we engage the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and our friends at Ontario Health. Once that happens, then we proceed with implementing the plan. So I'd like to see us have something go to the board, likely early spring.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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