IHA looking to hire local to boost rural health care

By on September 8, 2017
(Photo courtesy of the Interior Health Authority).

In order to ensure rural communities have access to quality health care, Interior Health Board Chair John O’Fee says its key to find and hire locals — an initiative already in the works.

The Interior Health Authority (IHA) is considering the long-term strategy of encouraging First Nations — and young people in general — from rural communities to consider health care as a career path, O’Fee told the Herald.

Interior Health board chair John O’Fee addresses a group of people gathered for a ceremony marking the start of contruction to expand the Nicola Valley Hospital’s ER on Aug. 30. (Michael Potestio/Herald)

“The most likely way I can get a health care professional to choose Merritt is if someone from Merritt becomes a health care professional,” said O’Fee, adding that the same is true for any other small B.C. community.

“We’re delusional if we think we’re going to hire people from Vancouver who are all going to move to Lytton,” he said. “Urban people tend to stay urban, and so we need to get more rural people considering health care as a profession.”

As part of this strategy, the IHA is in the process of hiring a First Nations human resource co-ordinator, O’Fee said.

“Our most acute needs are in rural areas, and so we want to make a special effort to go out to some of the more rural communities to get kids in high school interested in health care as a career,” he said, adding that such a job path doesn’t need to be limited to becoming a surgeon.

“It could be a nurse, a nurse practitioner [or] a health care aid. We have people who are in administration, we have people who are in charge of infrastructure,” said O’Fee. “We have 20,000 employees and we want our workforce to represent and reflect the society that we serve.”

The IHA has about 800 First Nations employees, which makes up just four per cent of the total IHA workforce.

O’Fee said the IHA would like to see that number increase to about 1,500 to better reflect the population of First Nations people in the health authority.

“If we’re underrepresented by a group, particularly a group that’s highly represented in rural areas where the have the highest need, that’s an obvious place where we should be saying ‘what can we do to encourage people to consider health care as a career,’” said O’Fee.

One way the IHA is doing this is by having heath care professionals visit schools and take students on tours of various areas of hospitals.

“A lot of times you have to expose people to something before they realize it’s something they might be interested in,” said O’Fee.

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