Ballooning travel nurse numbers proof of failing healthcare plan

Angus Reid: 66% say Sask. Party doing “poor” or “very poor” job on healthcare

REGINA - Today, Official Opposition Health Critic Vicki Mowat responded to new data suggesting that the Moe government’s reliance on temporary travel nurses is ballooning - further proof that their healthcare recruitment plan is failing. 

“Moe and his minister need to be straight about what's going on in our health system,” said Mowat. “A lot of communities across Saskatchewan are losing nurses faster than they’re hiring them. It seems the government is struggling to recruit permanent replacements and is relying more on expensive travel nurses who don’t have roots here and can pack up and leave at any time.”

According to the Minister, 157 travel nurses were operating in rural/northern communities as of last April, and 68 between Regina and Saskatoon. New figures from the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses suggest that the province’s use of travel nurses has ballooned since then. Over 50,000 hours were logged by travel nurses this January, compared to 29,000 in April 2023. According to SUN, Saskatchewan is on track to spend more than $70 million on travel nurses this year alone.

In estimates last April, the Minister of Health committed to providing the Opposition with “a very lengthy document” detailing the province’s use of travel nurses. The Minister said the document would be shared “right away”, but eleven months have passed and follow-up correspondence reminding the Minister of this promise has gone unanswered.

With few answers from the government, here is what the Opposition has found in SHA annual reports:

Agency

2020-21

2021-22

2022-23

Elite Intellicare Staffing

 

$167,306 

$3,056,128 

Ezcare Nursing Agency

$171,452 

$3,223,185 

$4,439,396 

Goodwill Staffing & Recruitment

 

$76,926 

$1,452,333 

Lifeline Horizons Staffing Agency

   

$144,196 

Lovely Heart Nursing Agency

   

$373,613 

New Horizons Staffing Inc

$317,262 

$4,065,005 

$13,809,493 

Simple Staffing Inc

   

$324,333 

Solutions Staffing

$952,830 

$2,342,827 

$1,705,722 

TOTALS

$1,441,544 

$9,875,249 

$25,305,214 

“The government is clearly failing to recruit and retain enough healthcare workers if their use of temporary travel nurses has ballooned. This is an expensive band-aid solution and no way to run a health system in the long-term,” said Mowat. “This government has had 17 years to strengthen our healthcare system and they still haven’t gotten it right.”

According to CIHI, there were 2,234 rural/remote registered nurses in 2018 when Scott Moe took office. The most recent available data shows that there are only 1,760, the largest dip in the nursing workforce in all the provinces studied at -21%. Saskatchewan has also seen a net decrease in registered psychiatric nurses since 2018, going from 755 to 679.

The Moe government’s struggle to recruit and retain nurses comes as new polling shows widespread disapproval of the Sask. Party’s performance on healthcare. According to Angus Reid, 66% of Saskatchewan people say the Sask. Party is doing a “poor” or “very poor” job managing the healthcare system. 

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