I have spent the better part of the summer in bargaining or on the road, meeting with a number of members in the health care sector. A common question that keeps reverberating through these meetings from all of our members is: what is the plan with the new provincial health authority?
It’s a given that everyone in Saskatchewan will be impacted by ‘the plan’ as we all access health care services at one point or another in our lives. But further to that, this grand experiment also has the potential for setting the standard within other sectors, like education.
The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will be established ‘some time’ this fall. Currently, there is not a lot of detail being shared by the Transition Team as they are working on recommendations for the new SHA board. Their work includes consultation with health care unions, the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA), First Nations and Metis leaders, and front line staff. The consultations don’t seem to be in-depth or extensive.
‘The plan’ includes centralized services in lab, supply chain, IT, and other service areas. But what that centralized service looks like in our health care facilities and to patients, clients, and residents is unclear at this time. We do not know whether there will be staff reductions via layoff or attrition. We have asked this repeatedly and continue to await the answers. We know that there is a drive to create integrated service areas throughout the province, but again, the details are less than clear as this work is all ‘in progress’ and if we do see any info, it is only recommendations at this point.
Members are concerned about their jobs, the effect on their communities, their patients, clients, and residents, rural facility closures and the status of their union. Members are looking for clear answers about how this new health authority will change their current working lives. There is no clear answer about this. The Transition Team is focused only on getting the SHA to ‘Day One’ of operations; but we are all looking for answers for ‘Day 21’ or ‘Day 201’ (and beyond).
What I do know is that SEIU-West is working with CUPE and SGEU health service providers to develop a formal process, like a bargaining association, so that we can maintain our individual unions while still creating opportunities and security for our members to move throughout the province for work. We recognize that we have skills and knowledge that we can share and build on for our members and that is a credible strength. The coalition of health service provider unions, SEIU-West, CUPE, SGEU, have a long history together – both through good times and bad – that we intend to continue to improve and strengthen. We believe that this is in the best interests of our memberships.
This new SHA is a monumental change in the way health care is structured and, likely, delivered in this province. I cannot stress enough the importance of recognizing, valuing and capitalizing on the front line expertise that all of our members bring to the work of health care.
As we know more, we will continue to provide updates to all of our members.
Barb Cape, SEIU-West President