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'Rising to the call': Latest wave presents different challenges to Barrie hospital

As of Thursday morning, there were 156 active positive cases among Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre employees

With roughly 6.5 per cent of its workforce off work because of the pandemic, Barrie’s Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) is challenged to deal with an increase in COVID-19 cases.

And what it faces now is dramatically different than in previous waves, says Darrell Sewell, who is a vice president at RVH and chief human resources officer.

With the cancellation of non-urgent surgeries and some ambulatory services given the rapid spread of the omicron variant and demands on health care, the Barrie hospital has been reassigning staff members to areas where they’re most needed. Many have added shifts to cover gaps and others have taken on other roles.

That reassessment of human resources now occurs several times during the day, given the high absenteeism related to the pandemic and the current rapid spread of the latest version of the virus.

“We are so fortunate to have the people we have working here delivering the care that they are,” said Sewell. “Our workforce has just been outstanding in rising to the call.”

Staff members were not impacted directly by the virus in previous waves the way they currently are, he added.

At 8:30 a.m., Thursday, there were 156 active positive cases among RVH employees. In addition, 134 workers had been exposed  many of those were able to continue working remotely, but 74 could not work. The 230 not at work today represents about 6.5 per cent of RVH’s total workforce of roughly 3,500 people.

Meanwhile, recruiting efforts have continued. During the past four months, 78 staff members have been added. 

In addition, an 'extern' program which sees students  mostly in nursing  come to the hospital during their last year of schooling result in 65 additional workers.

The provincial government also announced it hopes to tap into about 1,200 internationally trained nurses who are in their final stages of receiving certification here. On Thursday, RVH learned its application for access to some of the additional help was approved, although Sewell doesn’t know whether to expect additional help through that route.

Generally, he said, RVH has not had difficulty recruiting talent, although he said there’s always a need. Some positions, such as nurses, particularly in specialty areas, are typically hard to fill.