Legislative Report (20 June 2007)

Summer of Discontent Looms in Health Sector

This could be the beginning of a summer of discontent in the province’s health care system. The NDP’s failure to develop an effective long-term recruitment strategy to deal with current vacancies on the front lines of our health care system could soon be causing some to re-evaluate whether they should continue their careers. It will also increase frustration amongst patients. There will no doubt be bed closures. There will be cancelled vacations. There will be longer hours, staff shortages and job burn-out. All because of the NDP’s refusal to plan ahead and set targets for recruitment and retention!

We’re seeing some disturbing signs already. Problems at the Big River Health Centre have been in the news for most of this year. Full acute care services were expected to resume June 15th. However, this week, residents discovered the town will remain without emergency medical services indefinitely.

In Spiritwood, more than 2,000 people signed a petition demanding the reopening of hospital services after a six month suspension of services. Similar problems have led to interruptions of medical services in Canora, Kamsack and Preeceville this spring.

Meanwhile, the President of the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses told delegates to SUN’s annual convention in Saskatoon this spring that nurses themselves may be encouraging government inaction. According to Rosalee Longmoore, nurses have the right to say no to overtime and their willingness to work extra hours enables the government to “continue the Band-aid approach to health services”. According to Longmoore, nurses work the equivalent to 182 full-time positions in overtime by coming in early, staying late and working in wards that are short-staffed. A third of nurses responding to a recent survey indicated the quality of care delivered in their workplace has declined over the past year in part due to staff shortages and heavy workloads.

The Saskatchewan Party has been calling for a long term recruitment and retention strategy, a strategy developed in concert with those working on the front lines. The Saskatchewan Party has also called for a sustained effort to deal with current nursing vacancies.

How do taxpayers’ pay for all of this? Right now, 44 per cent of all tax dollars wind-up in the health care system. It’s not the dollars, it’s the way those dollars are allocated. That’s why the Saskatchewan Party has been calling for a patient-centred review of the health care system to help re-direct money to improving patient care.

Those who want evidence that this kind of review is required need look no further than the Saskatoon Health Region. The region spent more than $680,000 last year on severance packages for four senior executives. It was also announced that the region’s board was paid nearly 30 per cent more this year compared to last year for meetings, travel time and meals.

The people of Saskatchewan, regardless of where they live, are entitled to a dependable, cost effective health care system. Because of the NDP’s lack of leadership, they’re not getting one. People who rely on the health care system are getting tired of waiting for changing. So are people working in the health care system.

If you have a question about this report or any other matter, just Contact Lyle.

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