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Staffing agencies a concern for hospital CEO

'They are absolutely poaching from the public sector'
Paul Heinrich, CEO of the North Bay Regional Health Centre, speaks to the media during an event in April. File photo by Chris Dawson/BayToday.

Paul Heinrich is concerned with health care related staffing agencies. 

Heinrich, the CEO of the North Bay Regional Health Centre brought up the concern during a recent BayToday interview relating to Bill 60, which is now Ontario's Your Health Act. 

He is concerned North Bay Regional Health Centre is training new staff so that staffing agencies can hire them and in his words, "cause great disruption."  

"I think these private agencies in about 70 to 80 per cent of all hospitals, are using staffing agencies just for their regular hospital. In fact, they are absolutely poaching from the public sector. And in fact, what's really strange to me is the business model is kind of bizarre because in this case, the private sector is actually charging more for the same person," he said. 

Earlier this month the Ontario NDP raised the same type of concerns about the high profits being made by a health-care staffing agency it says has recruited hundreds of Ontario nurses and personal support workers and sent them to work in Eastern Canada.

A former insider at a health-care staffing agency went to Ontario's New Democrats, who brought their concerns to question period in early June. 

"Fly-by-night staffing agencies are hurting our hospitals. They are hurting the patients in our hospitals. They exist for one reason: to make money for the investor. They take health-care workers from our public system and sell them back at huge profits," said NDP health critic France Gélinas last Thursday. "How big, Speaker? A whistle-blower showed us: $154-million profit off the backs of 500 Ontario healthcare workers. Let that sink in; this is sickening."

Joel Harden, the NDP MPP for Ottawa Centre, said the company was recruiting "burned out nurses and PSWs" from Ontario's health-care system and offering them "double the salaries they normally earn" to work for the company, Canadian Health Labs, which he said plans to recruit as many as 5,000 health-care workers.

See related: Whistleblower, NDP decry 'sickening' profits for health-care staffing agency

He says it will make the hiring playing field more challenging. 

"I'm concerned about the private sector having the ability to recruit and retain the same way we can. It is creating instability in health and human resources across the province," said Heinrich. 

However, the Ministry of Health says hospitals have always had the ability to use agency nurses to address local needs.

"Hospitals are responsible for their own day-to-day operations and salary arrangements for their nurses," stated Hannah Jensen, press secretary for Sylvia Jones, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health.  

"The proportion of agency nurses has decreased from 3.8 per cent in 2017 to 3.2 per cent in 2021, and remains to be under 1 per cent of the total hours worked in hospitals," she continued. 

Heinrich believes Bill 60 supports the Ford government’s plan to expand private clinics in the province. 

"I am not a fan of the staffing agency and from that I am concerned with the Bill 60 piece," said Heinrich.  

"The plan is to have more private operators do some of these surgeries that are behind in the province and I do not understand the business model of the private company because they are actually going to cost more. They will pay double the amount that a regular hospital will pay and they will probably get to choose in the surgical avenue, better working conditions in terms of not having to do shift work." 

Heinrich believes hospitals need to get away from using staffing agencies and instead, the system needs to find a way to increase enrolment in medical training programs and locally continue ramping up recruitment across the north. 

Meantime, the North Bay Health Coalition addressed North Bay City Council with those same concerns on Tuesday night. 

"There is no real protection against staff poaching from our local public hospitals," said Henri Giroux, Chair of the North Bay Health Coalition.  

"It’s already taking place. Bill 60 lacks safeguards against this problem, and will give private clinics a potential recruitment advantage and diminish the pool of health-care workers." 

With files from The Trillium and

Chris Dawson

About the Author: Chris Dawson

Chris Dawson has been with since 2004. He has provided up-to-the-minute sports coverage and has become a key member of the BayToday news team.
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