SEIU-West (Service Employees International Union) responded with shock and growing dismay to recent public statements from Minister of Health Don McMorris regarding the utilization of private surgical care options to reduce backlogs. This reaction comes as a result of information released this week that the SaskParty government is exploring privatization options rather than investing to enhance the public provision of diagnostic tests such as MRIs and CT scans. As well, the SaskParty government is proposing to perform surgeries in private, forprofit clinics.
“When the Minister of Health states publicly that no one cares about the location of their surgery and he doubts patients care if their surgeries are performed in private clinics, we question the context of his statements,” said SEIU-West President Barbara Cape. “Is there a concerted effort by the SaskParty government to devalue the provision of public health care services so as to promote the privatization of such services as a viable option? Why not look at utilizing the public services available in communities such as Humboldt, Rosetown, Swift Current or Moose Jaw to maximum capacity? Would this not be more cost efficient? Monies that ought to be invested in our public system will be re-routed to the private for-profit system with no accountability.”
“We ask these questions for a very good reason. Despite the fact that SEIU-West members offer professional skills and years of experience and loyalty to the health care system, we have seen no recognition or value by SAHO or
the SaskParty government at the collective bargaining table,” Cape added. “In all honesty, they have spent less than four hours sitting across the table face-to-face with representatives of provincial health providers in an effort to hear their issues and engage in meaningful dialogue in order to reach a collective agreement with our members.” One classification that will be affected by this announcement is Medical Radiation Technologists (Specialty).
Members in this classification perform many diagnostic tests and, in the Saskatoon Health Region, they have experienced vacancies that cannot be filled and workload burdens which lead to excessive overtime. This classification is on the hard to recruit list identified by the Saskatoon Health Region. However, in the current round of negotiations, SAHO has insisted that this classification should not receive a market adjustment in order to enhance recruitment and retention efforts.
“Our members are also alarmed and offended when they hear in the news that Health Minister McMorris is contemplating a quick contract arrangement with private firms,” Cape said. “Where is the effort by the SaskParty
government to arrive at a quick contract with our members who have now been without a collective agreement for over two (2) years? Rather, we are faced with an unacceptable offer that sets out rollbacks in many areas, and a refusal to address many critical recruitment and retention issues.”
“With the introduction of so-called Essential Services legislation, as well as slow, drawn-out contract negotiations and various other moves by the SaskParty government to demonize health care providers and labour groups, maybe the plan all along was to move toward privatization of health care services,” Cape concluded.”
SEIU-West represents approximately eleven thousand health care providers across the province. They include special care aides, licensed practical nurses, diagnostic and therapeutic technologists, food services workers, laundry, housekeeping and activity personnel, maintenance, sterile processing workers, operating room technologists, maintenance personnel, and administrative and clerical staff, among others.
PDF version of this release: Press Release: SaskParty Government Chooses Private, For-Profit Business over Local Health Care Providers