President’s Message: SHR Budget Update

On January 18 a team of senior management from Saskatoon Health Region (SHR) led by interim CEO Andrew Will came to SEIU-West’s Saskatoon office to discuss the latest developments in SHR’s efforts to deal with its budget issues. SEIU-West was represented by Director of Contract Bargaining and Enforcement (CB&E) Bob Laurie, Deputy Director of CB&E Russ Doell, Vice-President Neil Colmin, Treasurer Janice Platzke, Member Resource Centre Officer Angela Hosni and Research Officer Karman Kawchuk.

We have been hearing from and meeting with many of you and understand you have questions: will there be layoffs, and if so, where and when? Unfortunately, after this meeting we don’t have any more answers to these questions than we did after our last meeting with SHR leadership – see the December 21, 2015 President’s Message: Saskatoon Health Region.

Nevertheless, Mr. Will offered some hope that there are opportunities for all of us to have a positive effect on the outcome.

Mr. Will said he was very impressed by and grateful for SEIU-West’s post about the December meeting. He said he was especially struck by the member’s question “Where did the money go and how did we get such a large deficit?” and he spent the first part of the meeting attempting to answer it. SHR had a balanced budget a couple of years ago, but since then its expenses have risen much faster than its revenues. Some of this, he said, is because of population growth in the region and province, but some may be because SHR is not spending as wisely as it could be. He pointed out that more than 90% of SHR’s revenue comes from the provincial government, and that in the current economic situation the government is not in the mood to significantly increase its grants.

SHR leadership is currently preparing a draft “sustainability plan” which they will submit to the SHR Board and the Ministry of Health. They hope this will happen by the end of January. After the Board and Ministry have their input—which might result in big changes to the plan–the plan will be shared with SEIU-West and other stakeholders for feedback. It is unclear at this point when the plan will be finalized.

Mr. Will stated that “there will be job impacts” as the plan moves forward, but insisted that SHR wants to keep these impacts to a minimum. He assured us that SHR is open to all suggestions and will be examining all expenses.

As part of this initiative, you can expect to see information on your unit’s “visibility walls” about how much your unit costs to operate. Mr. Will has been part of several organizations that have encouraged front line workers to suggest ways to improve service and save costs. In his view, these organizations didn’t provide workers with enough detailed information about how much their particular work unit costs to operate. He wants to provide front-line workers with that kind of information, on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis, to help them develop informed suggestions and, if those suggestions are being tried on their unit, to help workers see as quickly as possible what impact their suggestions are having.

We encourage our members to take part in this process. SEIU-West believes that our members are the experts in health care and are best positioned to talk about how to keep our system healthy and functioning, and to identify cost saving ideas that will avoid layoffs. We made several suggestions at the meeting, including:

  • Ensure that our LPNs are allowed to work to their full scope of practice;
  • Improve training for front-line managers; and
  • Improve opportunities for current workers to become Continuing Care Assistants (“learn while you earn”).

I can advise that as of today’s date, no formal notice of layoff has been provided to SEIU-West. We will continue to work with SHR to minimize the impact of budget issues on patients, clients, residents and staff. The work that is done by our members in health care is a resource that does not lose it’s value.

Please feel free to forward your suggestions to my attention ( and we will ensure that all of your valued input is shared with SHR.

We are committed to ensuring clear and timely communication to all our members as this process develops. Keep checking our website and union boards for further information – we will provide updates as we have them.

We are stronger together!

In Solidarity,

Barbara Cape
President – SEIU-West

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