Legislative Report (5 September 2007)

A Health Human Resources Plan

Comparisons between provinces are never perfect. However, when you compare and contrast Saskatchewan’s health care system with what exists in Manitoba, some interesting facts emerge. And if you look carefully, you can see how the NDP’s record of mismanagement and broken promises have created some of the longest waiting lists in Canada, hospital closures and a frustrated cadre of over-worked health care professionals.

Saskatchewan and Manitoba have roughly the same population. The heath care budgets are roughly the same: $3.9 billion in Manitoba, $3.4 billion in this province. So, you’d think the number of nurses, doctors and specialists would be about the same. Not so.

According to the Saskatchewan Association of Registered Nurses, there are 11,000 nurses in Manitoba. Saskatchewan has roughly 8,000.

The Manitoba Medical Association and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan report there are roughly 2,300 doctors in Manitoba and approximately 1,500 in Saskatchewan. There are more than one thousand specialists in Manitoba, roughly 400 fewer in Saskatchewan.

Why the disparity? You have to go back to the 1990’s to find the answer. That’s when the NDP made severe cuts to training seats---cuts creating the skills shortage that compromised the quality of health care in Saskatchewan. Then, for more than a decade, the NDP ignored warnings from nurses, doctors and other professionals about the growing crisis in health care.

The end result has been an unending list of rural hospital closures or reduced emergency services in communities across the province. That in turn puts more pressure on hospitals in Regina, Saskatoon, Yorkton and Prince Albert. In a recent internal memo from the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region, doctors are asked to discharge patients early because the region is in “crisis mode” and needs to “prevent the system from collapsing all together.

The solution to this problem lies in the comprehensive health human resources plan announced recently by the Saskatchewan Party. In the first term of government, that plan would add 800 registered nurses (filling the current 600 vacancies and adding another 200). That would improve the nurse-to-patient ratio and directly improve patient care. The plan would also add 300 registered nurse training seats and bring the number of physician training seats to 100, a number comparable to Manitoba.

The Saskatchewan Party is also committed to working with all stakeholders in the system to develop a ten year comprehensive health human resources plan, to get health care back on track. The number of health care vacancies would be tracked and publicly reported so that everyone will know what progress is being made. Patient exit surveys would be used to measure the quality of care.

The Saskatchewan Party would also establish the Premier’s Council on Health Care Work Place Issues. This body would meet quarterly to discuss issues like the integration of new nursing graduates, part time versus full time work and other matters that have an impact on the quality of working life for our health care professionals.

This comprehensive plan is just the latest in a series of concrete announcements that have been made by the Official Opposition Saskatchewan Party. We have announced a plan for assisting Saskatchewan municipalities in developing new lots for development. We have announced a comprehensive policy to address Saskatchewan’s labour shortage. Under a Saskatchewan Party government, Community Based Organizations would also be allotted more money so that they can focus on helping those most in need in our communities, instead of spending all their time filling out grant applications.

The NDP would people to think that a clear alternative has not been presented. That clear alternative is there for all to see. So is the disastrous record of NDP incompetence in health care, the maintenance of roads and other services.

The NDP would like people to forget their out-of-court settlement in the Murdoch Carriere case, where a man convicted of assault and fired for harassment received $275,000 in public money. The NDP would like people to forget about the on-going RCMP investigation into fraud in the NDP caucus where police were not told about missing public funds and a confession letter.

The NDP would like the public to forget a lot of things that have happened over the last 16 years. It’s not going to work.

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

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