There aren’t enough cooks or continuing care assistants in long-term care. There aren’t enough licensed practical nurses or medical technologists in acute care. There are simply not enough health care workers in Saskatchewan’s broken health care system.
It is common for all health care facilities to be short staffed. It happens every single day. This negatively impacts patient and resident care. It also impacts health care workers who must make do, working short every day. They are exhausted, burned out and frustrated because they can’t provide the care their patients and residents need.
The Sask. Party government introduced a “historic” recruitment and retention plan in September 2022. It promises to “recruit, train, incentivize and retain” health care workers in the province. Just this week they issued a press release stating that they are having success. On the same day they announced this news, however, there were 1,661 vacancies posted on the Health Careers in Saskatchewan webpage. This isn’t much of an improvement since the plan was launched. It may be because the plan has missed the mark. It may also be because health care facilities have both a front door and a back door.
Health care workers who remain in the system are leaving. They are retiring as soon as they can, earlier than they planned in some cases. They are leaving for other jobs. While the health human resources’ plan tries to get health care workers in the front door, many are going out the back door. They can’t continue to work short every shift, be denied vacation, be forced into overtime, be scheduled for shifts they don’t want and deal with poor working conditions, a lack of respect and stagnant wages. There is nothing in the plan for retaining them. Literally nothing.
Where “the plan” hasn’t succeeded, the solution is to get private companies to provide contract health care workers. Imagine paying $90 per hour to a private company to get the services of a health care worker whom you could hire for $36.16 per hour. We know there are more costs to that in-house employee – benefits, pension, statutory payments. Even so, how is it sustainable to double your costs?
Contract employees aren’t part of the community, they aren’t vested in the workplace, and that isn’t good for the system or care being provided. How much productivity is lost orientating and getting work ready for a steady flow of new contract workers? Privatization doesn’t save money, and it doesn’t provide better care.
It is time to pay attention to the back door. It is time to provide some respect and relief to the workers still on the front line.
CUPE Local 5430