This Op-Ed appeared in the October 26, 2017 edition of the Southwest Booster on page A6
SEIU-West, along with other health care unions, has asked the Government of Saskatchewan to designate October 23 to 29 as Health Care Provider Week in Saskatchewan. As we continue to wait for Minister of Health, Jim Reiter’s reply, let’s reflect upon the state of our public health care system.
Our government has initiated transformational change to our health care system. The biggest change would seem to be the decision to collapse twelve existing health regions into one province-wide health authority.
This consolidation doesn’t appear to have a clear plan or strategy for the improvement of health care services in our province beyond saving short-term dollars on governance boards. Unfortunately, the Government of Saskatchewan is without vision in this health care system as they also seek to reduce public sector compensation by 3.5%.
It makes our health care sector less attractive to people who bring incredible knowledge and skill to their work in the system and further frustrates our ability to attract and retain health care providers that we have been in need of for years. The fact that many may not know is that the hard to recruit list of hard to recruit healthcare classifications has grown since the SaskParty government took office and many of the careers that were on the list in 2010 are still there seven years later.
On top of this, we have experienced unsafe staffing levels, cuts to programs, hiring freezes and layoffs in a number of the existing health regions over the last year. This has caused great uncertainty and instability for all health care workers who move to other provinces in order to find stability and opportunities for career expansion.
Let’s face it. Working in health care is a job that changes every day. We work with human beings. We are an unpredictable creature. Every day brings new challenges, opportunities, heart ache, and triumph.
The people of Saskatchewan need health care services that are high quality and reliable. Unfortunately, this government has decided to discard essential pieces of our health care system without thought to the consequences on the system and sell them off to private companies who are in it for profit – not for the good of the people of Saskatchewan. Services like MRI’s or CT scans; surgeries; and lab testing transportation. This is an incredibly complex system that should be world-class, instead, we are struggling to deal with increased costs due to privatization and ill-advised Lean methodologies aimed at quality improvement.
Our health care system desperately needs adequate human resources to provide quality hands-on health care services. Every position is essential to providing patient and family focused health care in so many contexts. Whether it be Continuing Care Assistants (CCAs) caring for long term care residents; Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) providing bedside care; Medical Laboratory and Diagnostic Imaging Technologists informing treatment plans; Food Services workers making sure nourishment needs are met; Sterile Processing workers equipping the surgical suites; Tradespeople, Environmental Services workers, and Security staff ensuring our health care facilities are maintained, clean and safe.
Let’s hope that our Minister of Health takes the time next week to think about our incredible health care providers. How they have been the foundation on which our health care system operates.
I invite you to join healthcare workers who have reached out to Minister Reiter and their MLAs that patient first care requires safe staffing. Together let’s show our support to the incredible men and women who put our patients, clients and residents first and call on the Government of Saskatchewan to stop dismantling health care.