NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat slammed the Sask. Party government’s failure to address long-standing staffing issues that could delay expanded COVID-19 testing as schools reopen. Mowat called on the government to ensure capacity is in place to meet an expected surge in demand, and to begin random testing in places vulnerable to outbreak, such as schools, long-term care homes and homeless shelters.
“Fast access to COVID-19 testing is essential to safely sending kids and teachers back to school, but we’ve consistently been testing at below half of our advertised capacity” said Mowat. “Six months into the pandemic, the Sask. Party is still scrambling to address the shortage, even as they refuse to bargain fairly with existing lab techs, who have been without a contract for nearly three and a half years. We need a government that takes public health seriously and puts people first.”
Saskatchewan is lagging far behind the rest of the country in testing, at less than 70 percent of the Canadian average, and people are still waiting multiple days between requesting a test and getting results. Mowat emphasized that bottlenecks in testing could make outbreaks worse this fall.
Mowat pointed to a Saskatchewan Society of Medical Laboratory Technologists 2019 report showing that the number of lab techs in the province has been falling since 2014, impacting rural healthcare in particular. A shortage of Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technicians (CLXT) in the province has frequently led to Emergency Room closures in rural areas, including in Broadview late last year and Leader this summer.
“The Sask. Party is letting people down and promising ‘austerity’, which means cuts to public health workers like lab techs that we will need as we continue to grapple with the pandemic,” said Mowat. “What Saskatchewan families need is a government that will make the crucial investments that we need - now - to keep our schools and our communities safe.”