Mowat: Sask. Party must act immediately to address staff-shortages in healthcare and long-term care

Regina – Today, the Official Opposition joined health sector leaders to call on the Sask. Party government to immediately fulfill its campaign commitment to address short-staffing in the province’s healthcare system. The group also called for the development of a Health Human Resources Roundtable to address long-standing short-staffing, recruitment and retention issues plaguing the healthcare sector in the province. 

“This pandemic exposed what those in health care have been saying for years -- there just aren’t enough staff on the frontlines. At a time when we need more people providing patient care and also need more jobs, this should be a no brainer for Scott Moe but he keeps dragging his feet,” said Mowat. “This government campaigned on a promise to hire more than 300 continuing care aides and to increase healthcare resources, but this has proven to be another empty promise from the premier.”

The Premier assured the Legislative Assembly in December that his government had expedited the hiring process of the 300 Continuing Care Aides he promised on the campaign trail, claiming they were “actively being searched out as we speak.” Health sector leadership, however, has yet to see any significant changes to staff, with understaffing as prevalent and dangerous as it has been in years’ past. With more than 1100 unfilled positions currently advertised with SHA, 48 per cent of which are temporary positions, the staffing challenges across Saskatchewan are clearly related to this government’s approach to the training, recruitment and retention of valuable health resources.   

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed significant staffing challenges in our health system: 

“We have been advocating for staff resources that put Patient/Client/Resident First for the last decade,” says Barbara Cape President of SEIU-West. “It seems like it took a pandemic to even move this government slightly toward acknowledging a staff shortage and their promises of 300 CCAs doesn’t look like it will materialize in time to make a real difference during the pandemic when the need is so very pronounced.”

“In August of 2016 the Government of Saskatchewan appointed an Advisory Panel on Health System Structure. The panel recommended a structure with fewer Regional Health Authorities to achieve administrative efficiencies as well as improvements to patient care,” said Sandra Seitz, President of CUPE Local 5430. “Health Care Workers continue to struggle with heavy workload and have not seen the efficiencies that were to be used to improve patient care.”

“Our current system is fraught with challenges like trying to get students through mandatory practicums when the system is already so understaffed there is no one to supervise them,” said SGEU Health Providers Bargaining Chair Tracey Sauer. “These are problems that government, post-secondary institutions, or unions can’t solve on our own. This roundtable would help us work together on a multi-sector approach that will help us fix understaffing once and for all.”

The Official Opposition is joining calls from health sector leaders for the province to use the lessons from this pandemic as an opportunity to reform our health system. Government must convene a Health Human Resources Roundtable to examine health labour force needs, how they align with training, and how to retain care workers in hard-to-recruit positions. By bringing together the Ministries of Health and Advanced Education, health sector unions and post-secondary training institutions to develop a comprehensive health sector labour force strategy to create and keep quality health sector jobs in the province.