REGINA - With COVID-19 hitting front-line health professionals across the healthcare system, Official Opposition Leader Ryan Meili called on Premier Scott Moe and the Sask. Party government today to extend Phase 2 of the Saskatchewan Temporary Wage Supplement Program to all healthcare workers in the province. Currently, the “hero pay” program only supports workers in long-term care and personal care home facilities impacted by the suspension on visitations that came into effect on November 20, as well as homecare workers.
“We know COVID-19 is not just a long-term care issue, with many of those same seniors now entering our hospitals. Yesterday’s announcement that COVID-19 restrictions now apply to Regina hospitals attests to that,” said Meili. “The virus doesn’t care what kind of facility it is in. It is everywhere, and our support for frontline workers should be everywhere as well.”
The “hero pay” program was introduced earlier this year in response to a federal initiative to support essential workers. Documents from Finance Canada show Saskatchewan was eligible for more than 106 million dollars from the federal government for wage increases for essential workers. Of that, nearly half was left on the table. The Sask. Party government has explicitly not included healthcare workers from several types of facilities in Phase 2 of this program.
The government’s website states:
“Acute care facilities such as hospitals which provide access to acute short-term care services such as emergency, ambulatory care, diagnostic services, inpatient and outpatient care, critical care, and surgical care operated by the Provincial Health Authority or its affiliates as defined in The Provincial Health Authority Act, are not eligible facilities.”
The Saskatchewan Federation of Labour and a coalition of healthcare unions have called on the provincial government to amend Phase 2 of the STWSP to include all healthcare workers. Today, the Saskatchewan NDP Caucus is proud to join that call.
“The government’s decision to restrict hero pay in this way means that front-line workers providing end-of-life care, or supporting COVID patients in our ICUs, are unable to access this support,” said Meili. “Every healthcare worker should be valued in the fight against COVID-19. I’m calling on the Premier today to stop leaving frontline heroes without this important support.”