Nova Scotia long-term care home recruits staff from refugee camps
The COVID-19 pandemic exposed the need to increase the staffing of long-term care facilities, and a house in Nova Scotia found hope in a place where supply often exceeds supply.
Glen Haven Manor in New Glasgow is part of a federal project that works with the United Nations and several NGOs to recruit skilled workers from refugee camps in the Middle East and Africa.
Ottawa’s Economic Mobility Pathway Pilot (EMPP) is planned to be launched in 2018. Its goal is to alleviate the shortage of skilled labor in Canada while serving humanitarian purposes.
Glen Haven employs five employees under the federal plan. Khodor Ramlawi was the first to join the family in December 2020.
Although his wife Maya is a Lebanese, he and their two daughters have no identities and are classified as Palestine refugees.
When Ramlawi was recruited, the family lived outside a Palestine refugee camp in Lebanon, where he also worked.
Ramlawi said that he is a registered nurse in Lebanon and a paramedic instructor. He has worked in the emergency department and operating room for 20 years.
“My friend told me that there is an NGO and her name is Talent Beyond [Boundaries] This can help you apply for Canada,” he said.
Talent Beyond Boundaries is a non-governmental organization that works with federal programs to identify potential candidates in the Middle East. Another organization, RefugePoint, provides similar functions in East African countries.
Ramlawi said that he had previously applied to immigrate to Canada but was unsuccessful, but seized the opportunity to apply to the organization.
He said that officials asked for his resume two weeks later, and they told him two weeks later that he had accepted an interview at Glenhaven Manor. He succeeded.
“I told my wife that we are about to start our dream, and that’s how it happened,” he said.
Ramlawi and Maya moved to Canada with their two young daughters.
Several newcomers joined the staff
For a resident of Glen Haven Manor, this made her life easier.
Dorothy Royles is one of six people Ramlawi serves as a continuing care assistant.
“From getting the breakfast plate to the last thing in the evening, he was busy,” she said. “To give and do everything for each of us all day. If we try, we won’t find a better nurse.”
Glen Haven CEO Lisa M. Smith said that despite the obstacles caused by the pandemic and quarantine restrictions, two new people have joined the workforce since Ramlawi arrived. This pair is from Kenya.
She said two other people are in isolation and are expected to join the Glen Haven staff within a week and a half.
“The candidates under EMPP have outstanding qualifications and skills, and the enthusiasm they bring to their roles is inestimable,” Smith said.
This is the opinion of Michelle Lowe, executive director of the Association of Nursing Homes of Nova Scotia.
She said Glen Haven has always been “a very innovative leader in this field” because it is related to the recruitment of refugees.
She said: “I am very happy to meet them; they are highly skilled.” “They brought the skills we need in Nova Scotia.”
Lowe said that while long-term care is not the only department that recruits employees abroad, it reflects the state of long-term care and healthcare in Nova Scotia.
She hopes that other employers in Nova Scotia will join the program and bring technicians to the province.
“We are in a position where we need to be creative”
Smith said that there are too few people who want to work in Canada.
“We did not attract people from Pictou County, Nova Scotia or even Canada,” she said.
“The role is not paid enough. They are not staffed enough and the workload is too heavy. So we are in a position where we need to be creative.”
Smith said that the humanitarian aspect is also very important, because refugees have the opportunity to build a new life and bring their families.
Ramlawi said the environment in Nova Scotia is much safer and more free than refugee camps in Lebanon.
“The situation is terrible, terrible. There was a financial crisis there,” he said. “No baby food, no medicine, no electricity, no fuel. And you always think of your family.”
Moving to Nova Scotia also means that his position is far below what he is qualified to hold.
He said that it is too expensive for a low-income father to support his family to obtain a certificate or start university from scratch.
His wife Maya has a bachelor’s degree in education and French, and she said her qualifications are more easily recognized in Canada than him.
“A generation I hope not…because he already has his experience, but I don’t know, maybe things will be better in the future, maybe for our children,” she said.
Ramlawi said he loves his job and treats the residents of Glen Haven as family. He hopes that even if he has to make sacrifices in low-paying positions, his children will have a brighter future.
“My daughters, they will have rights. Maybe they will be doctors, maybe they will be lawyers; they can be lawyers,” he mused.