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NDP calls for “grow your own” health care strategy

Opposition MLAs, Nurse practitioners calling for overhaul of health care recruiting.
NDP on health care Oct. 11
Opposition Health Critic Vicki Mowat is flanked by Tara Schmalenberg, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Nurse Practitioners, and Remote Health Critic Matt Love at the legislature Tuesday.

REGINA — The opposition New Democrats have called on the Sask. Party government to overhaul its health care recruiting plan to include a “grow-your-own” health care strategy.

Opposition Health Critic Vicki Mowat and Rural and Remote Health Critic Matt Love were joined at the legislature Tuesday by Tara Schmalenberg, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Nurse Practitioners.

They called on the province to bring in a training initiative with the idea of supporting local health workers in their own communities. It was noted that other provinces including Ontario have their own “grow your own” nurse practitioner bridging initiatives. 

“The Sask. Party’s health plan doesn’t even begin to address one of the biggest challenges in our healthcare system, retention,” said Mowat, who suggested windfall revenues be used for the initiative.

“Rather than focusing solely on international recruitment, the Sask. Party must support health care workers right here at home in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan communities have a lot to offer. No one knows that better than people who are raised and are living here. And the doctors and nurses who have grown up here are most likely to stay here and make Saskatchewan home for good.”

Schmalenberg said nurse practitioners in the province were underutilized, and that a “Grow Your Own” initiative would support the professional development of local health care workers. 

“The role of nurse practitioners was not identified,” said Schmalenberg of the province’s recruitment plan. “Efforts for recruitment outlined in the action plan exclude plans to recruit homegrown health professionals.“

She noted in 2014, the Sask. Party had committed to a rural and remote nurse practitioner recruitment strategy but that never materialized.

Schmalenberg also noted 35 per cent of nurse practitioners are employed part time but would like to be employed full time, and nearly 10 per cent are not employed as a nurse practitioner at all due to the lack of local jobs in the geographic area.

“It seems imprudent to not expand job opportunities to a group of professionals who are immediately available to step up and become a patient’s primary care provider.”

Love said the “grow your own” approach would help “ensure quality and reliable health care throughout the province, but especially in the rural and remote communities hit hardest by Sask. Party health care closures.

“Scott Moe and the Saskatchewan Party have a long track record of thinking they know better and not listening to those with experience working on the front lines.”