Finding long-term care workers in northern Cape Breton has been a struggle, but a councillor in Victoria County wants that to change.
Norman MacDonald says unlike urban centres, people living north of Smokey are unable to train as continuing care assistants in their home communities.
The nearest school offering the training is roughly two hours away in Sydney.
MacDonald is a paramedic and a former personal support worker who sits on the board of Highland Manor in Neils Harbour. He says that staffing shifts at the long-term care home is precarious.
"It's almost at a breaking point in a sense because of staff shortages," said MacDonald who represents District 8, encompassing the communities of South Harbour, Dingwall, Cape North, Bay St. Lawrence and Capstick.
"We have some staff that are working overtime, or they work short [staffed]. And there's some of the CCAs that are ready to retire. When that time comes, which is very soon for some, it's going to be hard to operate because CCAs are needed."
Partnership with long-term care homes
CCAs are also needed to care for seniors in their homes throughout the county. The last course held anywhere north of Smokey was in 2016, which led to the graduation of about 10 people.
MacDonald says that he's reached out to Futureworx private career college which offers formalized CCA training based on sector need and program funding availability. The program is funded by the Department of Labour, Skill and Immigration. Most of the programs are currently offered to students on a tuition-free basis.
There have been three offerings of the program at Seaview Manor in Glace Bay, which provides on-site job training.
Seaview CEO Eric Doucette said the partnership has led to hirings.
"[The] benefit certainly takes its form in the shape of having individuals who are locally recruited and trained on a local level, who then have the opportunity to work as a continuing care assistant within their own community," said Doucette.
"I think the opportunity for individuals to be involved in the continuing care program becomes more attractive."
MacDonald hopes a training program can be offered at Highland Manor or another central location in northern Cape Breton.
He says about 15 people so far have expressed interest in the program, which he hopes will begin sometime in the new year.
Christel MacAloney, director of Futureworx private career college, said discussions with Victoria County are moving along but are still in the early stages.
Applicants to the Futureworx CCA program must meet certain admission requirements, such as having a Grade 12 certificate, GED Certificate or equivalent.
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