Province plans nurse recruitment trip to Philippines


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A local Filipino leader who works in health care says a provincial government push to recruit nurses from his home country is a good idea, but he hopes the province also does more to help Filipinos already in Manitoba who are struggling to get their health-care credentials recognized.

“This is a good package for the Filipino people back home, because they don’t have to research so much,” Greg Carlos, president of the South EastMan Filipino Association (SEMFA) and a health-care aide at Rest Haven, said last Monday in an interview.

“The problem is the requirements that they are asking from nurses right now. That is a big problem for the Filipinos who are actually in Manitoba right now.”

Last week, the Manitoba government announced it will send a delegation of health and immigration officials to the Philippines in the hopes of recruiting hundreds of qualified nurses and other health-care providers to Manitoba.

“Our close ties to the Philippines and the thriving local Filipino community are natural selling points,” Premier Heather Stefanson said in a release.

The trip is part of the government’s previously announced $200 million action plan to address persistent labour shortages stressing the health-care system.

The delegation, which will stop in three cities (Manila, Cebu, and Iloilo) between Feb. 21 and 25, will be led by Jon Reyes, Manitoba’s minister of labour and immigration. Reyes called on Manitoba’s Filipino community, of which he is a member, to share news of the opportunity with friends and family living in the Philippines.

Carlos, who completed his health-care training in Canada, welcomed news of the recruitment drive, saying it will allow skilled Filipinos to earn more money than they would back home.

“It’s a good thing,” Carlos said. “I’m very happy that the government is doing this for the Philippines. But I just feel that it’s unfair for the people who are here already. They just need some support and guidelines.”

Last summer, the province directed the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba to stop requiring internationally educated nurses (IENs) licensed in other countries to undergo further testing to be accredited in Manitoba.

But Carlos said he still hears of Filipino health-care workers who arrive in Manitoba only to find they qualify for less-skilled positions. Some, he said, choose to change professions, while others move away.

“I know a few people, after staying here for three years for PR [permanent residency], they move to different provinces,” Carlos said. “We’re pushing them away because of the requirements and the system that we have right now.”

Last May, the Philippine ambassador to Canada visited Steinbach to discuss his ongoing efforts to get foreign credentials recognized in Manitoba.

If that effort is successful, Carlos said it will help alleviate the labour shortages he sees firsthand at work.

“Because of COVID, people retired early, and some people are changing to a different profession,” he said. “It is very hard to be short-staffed all the time, because we’re trying to give quality care to people.”

The Manitoba Nurses Union said on Twitter this week that the nurse vacancy rate in Southern Health has doubled since 2020. Southern Health did not respond when asked to specify the number of nursing positions currently vacant across the health region.

In the meantime, SEMFA will support the province’s recruitment drive by reaching out to contacts in the Philippines. Carlos said he can already think of relatives who are a good fit for the program.

The province is prepared to make conditional offers of employment during the recruitment drive. The offers will come with a provincial support package designed to help with travel, immigration costs, credentialing, and mentorship.

A pre-screening process will focus on IENs who have worked at least two years in a hospital or long-term care setting and who have passed an internationally recognized English language test.

Health Minister Audrey Gordon said her department is working with the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba and the College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Manitoba to streamline the process for incoming IENs.

Deb Elias, CEO and registrar of the College of Registered Nurses, said the college is trying to balance a smooth onboarding process with the public’s expectations of safe nursing care.

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