Recruitment effort makes strides at Haliburton health facilities: CEO

By James Matthews

Efforts continue to fill vacant staff positions at Haliburton Highlands Health Services.

Carolyn Plummer, the president and CEO at the health service provider, informed its board of directors in her January report that dire staffing situations continue at many health care organizations throughout Ontario.

“There have been no real changes in the situation since the last update,” she said. “HHHS continues to work on recruitment and retention of health care workers and its current staff.”

The organization advertised vacancies in local newspapers last fall, she said. And there’s been some promising leads toward attracting new professionals to the region.

Plummer said she hopes to re-start the CEO Coffee Talk initiative. It was popular before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown in early 2020.

“This initiative provides staff with an informal opportunity to connect with the CEO, ask questions, and bring suggestions forward,” she said. “I am looking forward to connecting with staff again through this venue and, in particular, I would like to further explore some of the feedback we received through the recruitment and retention survey.”

In her report, Plummer said there are signs the triple threat of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), influenza, and COVID-19 has peaked, but hospitals are still struggling. 

The new variant of COVID-19 dubbed XBB.1.5 has been identified and is reportedly one of the most easily transmitted variants. Even if symptoms may not be as severe, high transmission of the virus has caused problems for the healthcare system and hospital capacity.

“HHHS will continue to maintain its COVID-19 precautions and do what it can to be prepared to manage higher patient volumes,” she said and added that two COVID-19 outbreaks at HHHS have recently ended.

The outbreak in the in-patient department, which began on Dec. 18, 2022 and involved nine patients, was declared over on Jan. 3.

The outbreak on the lower level of Hyland Crest Long-Term Care started Dec. 16, 2022 and culminated Jan. 10. It entailed 17 cases among residents and three staff members were infected. 

“Managing an outbreak, particularly while dealing with surges in patients and the need to admit patients to the Emergency Department, takes a significant toll on the team, patients, and residents,” Plummer said.

“I would like to express my deepest gratitude for all the efforts of our team in bringing these outbreaks to a close, as well as for the cooperation and understanding of patients, residents, and their families.”

There have been some staffing changes at the region’s two long-term care facilities. Tina Amodeo is the permanent assistant director of care at Highland Wood LTC. Recruitment continues for a director of care/administrator for the home.

At Hyland Crest LTC, Tracy Salvatori has accepted the assistant director of care position. 

Plummer thanked Dr. Tina Stephenson for her incredible work at Highland Wood LTC over the past 22 years. Stephenson will retire as the medical director of the home on April 1.

Dr. Michael Armstrong will take over as the interim medical director at Highland Wood while a permanent replacement is recruited. Armstrong has been working with HHHS for more than 20 years and is also the medical director for Hyland Crest LTC.