Health worker says conditions, culture driving colleagues out of Saskatchewan

REGINA - Today, the Saskatchewan NDP was joined at the Legislature by Shannon Orell-Bast, a breast cancer patient and medical social worker who helps people navigate Saskatchewan’s health system. She expressed concern over the culture and working conditions that are a factor in driving healthcare workers out of Saskatchewan.

“Women should not have to go to Calgary for something as basic as a mammogram,” said Official Opposition Leader Carla Beck. “We need to work with people on the frontlines like Shannon to change the health system from the ground up. We can be a nation-leader in healthcare again, but it will take new ideas and a new approach.” 

Shannon was diagnosed with breast cancer and began treatment in August 2022. She received 16 rounds of chemotherapy, 25 radiation treatments, a double mastectomy with no reconstruction and 17 immunotherapy treatments, and she continues to have ongoing health problems.

She would like to see improvements in the overall culture and working conditions so the health authority is able to better retain their staff.

“Health workers deserve safety, accountability, respect, collaboration and compassion. These are supposed to be the values of the SHA, but this provincial government isn’t delivering on them,” said Shannon. “Throwing money at the gaps in service will not solve the problem if we don't have staff to assess patients, operate equipment, and provide care and support. The staff are the foundation of this organization and their concerns need to be prioritized.”

According to the latest Medical Services Branch report, Saskatchewan had 982 active general practitioners during Premier Moe's first year in office. The most recent available data shows that there are currently 968 active GPs, an overall decrease of 14. For comparison, British Columbia is up 708 GPs last year alone.

According to CIHI, there were 2234 rural/remote registered nurses in 2018 when Scott Moe took office. The most recent available data shows that there are only 1760 - the largest dip in the nursing workforce in all the provinces studied at -21%. 

Tracy Zambory says that we’re experiencing “the worst nursing shortage that we've had in this province in a decade.”

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