REGINA - Today, Official Opposition Leader Carla Beck and Health Critic Vicki Mowat called on the Sask Party government to fix their health plan that has failed to sufficiently recruit and retain medical specialists, especially occupational therapists.
“Saskatchewan people deserve a government that’s focused on the issues that matter most,” said Beck. “Moe’s healthcare recruitment plan was criticized by healthcare workers and the provincial auditor from day one, and he still hasn’t fixed it. Healthcare available when and where you need it should be a priority, not a pipe dream.”
The Opposition was joined at the Legislature by occupational therapists. Christine Fleming, Saskatchewan Director for the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists, said that there are 337 OT positions and 95 vacancies in Saskatchewan – a vacancy rate of 28%.
According to the Canadian Institute of Health Information, Saskatchewan has the fewest occupational therapists per capita population out of all Canadian provinces. There are 27 OTs employed in direct care per every 100,000 people in Saskatchewan. The next worst province is Ontario at 34.
Earlier this year the government announced they would expand OT training seats, but only committed to 5 additional places at the Saskatchewan-funded University of Alberta program. Funding this out-of-province program has not fixed the problem, as many Saskatchewan-born OT students are establishing roots in Alberta and staying to work there after their university years.
“Occupational therapy is crucial to our health system and doesn’t just support our parents and grandparents as they age. It plays a crucial role in promoting mental health, managing chronic conditions, and guiding children through some of their most memorable milestones,” said Mowat. “We should be training-up healthcare workers with roots in Saskatchewan, not paying for people to put down roots in Alberta.”
The Official Opposition called on the Sask Party government to establish a Saskatchewan-based school for occupational therapists.