December 2, 2019
Honourable Jim Reiter Minister of Health
Room 204, Legislative Building
2405 Legislative Drive
Regina, SK S4S 0B3
Dear Minister Reiter:
SEIU-West members and leaders have been reaching out to you for some time regarding the lack of needed support for our health care system. Unfortunately, the results of our efforts have not produced much, if any, demonstrable evidence that our collective concerns are being heard. Recently, our members have paid special attention to your public comments in the legislative assembly and noted that it appears your comments do not reflect what is actually occurring in our workplaces. On behalf of SEIU-West members, I have questions and concerns to share in light of your public remarks.
In the last year, you have received approximately 1750 postcards, 1618 on-line messages and several requests to meet with our members who are constituents in your riding. We extended an invitation to Walk A Day in My Shoes (WADIMS) with our members who work in your riding at Rose Villa in Rosetown. You accepted our invitation and we worked with SHA officials (further to your advice) to develop a plan for the day. When our members had a plan to share, the SHA officials referred us to your legislative staff. We sent emails to your staff on September 27, October 11 and December 3 of 2018 regarding the visit, but did not even receive the courtesy of a reply. It seems that the efforts of our members, who are your constituents, to assist you in understanding firsthand the many problems that exist in health care through a WADIMS are not welcomed or appreciated.
In the legislative session on November 20 you stated:
Mr. Speaker, it needs to be clarified that we’ve made it completely clear to SHA officials that financial resources are not to get in the way of rectifying this problem, Mr. Speaker. They realize they have all resources at their disposal. (Hansard)
Since November 20 SEIU-West has requested of the SHA the particulars of what they have done to use the further resources you have committed, for example about hallway medicine particular to the examples SEIU-West has identified in the acute sector. Our concern is that our members in this sector do not see added resources being used to maintain adequate health care staffing on a day-to-day basis.
Further to this, we have now heard from members who work in long term care, home care, mental health, public and community services who suffer from the same lack of support and resources. Does your ministry believe in a lesser focus or priority for resources between hospital care and these other health care services? If they are eligible for additional needed resources, why hasn’t the SHA acted upon this resource commitment?
You also commented on November 20 that:
I’m told by officials that right now that health care providers outside of sort of the nurses and doctors, that sort of thing, Mr. Speaker, right now are at 98 per cent of the Western Canadian
What is interesting about this number is that your officials use a formula (designed by them) to capture all of the Saskatchewan wage rates for literally hundreds of classifications (which for a very many are at the lower end) and come up with a Western Canadian average wage rate. There is no analysis of the Western Canadian average real wage changes over time, which is a much more realistic analysis of the adequacy of compensation rates.
What is also very interesting is your Ministry’s formula does not in any way address or explain the real crisis in health care - the reason for ongoing understaffing is that job vacancies cannot be filled. For example, as a result of our inquiries we are able to share the following information with respect to vacant Continuing Care Assistant (CCA) positions (both part-time and full-time) at the following facilities:
Sherbrooke Community Centre – at least 40 vacant positions;
Parkridge Centre – at least 12 vacant positions;
Lutheran Sunset Home – at least 9 vacant positions.
These are ongoing vacant front line hands-on care provider positions within long term care. It means daily, ongoing understaffing situations such as 3 CCAs caring for 40 plus residents in a long term care facility plus those care recipients in respite rooms. It means some residents don’t get assistance getting out of bed, others don’t get their weekly bath and still others don’t get assistance in the dining room when the meal is ready. It means when two CCAs have to lift or reposition a resident, there is one CCA left to look after all the rest. It means that no care provider is surprised government statistics show that the health care sector is one of the most dangerous places to work in the province. It means there is a significant lack of institutional support for CCAs who have a challenging job both physically and emotionally.
Our members have grown frustrated with the inability of senior officials to acknowledge the posting process does not fill vacancies, if no one applies. The Western Canadian average formula does not address, in any way, the reality of the ever increasing list of Hard to Recruit classifications that exists. The most recent Business Plan for the Saskatchewan Health Authority (2019-20) acknowledges that 20% of employees are within 5 years of retirement. Why is there no acknowledgment that we need a new plan?
Finally, we note that your recent comments on November 27 confirm that the government intends to build a new medicine bed unit at Royal University Hospital, and credits the government with building 14 long term care facilities, the Humboldt Hospital and the Children’s Hospital. We fully appreciate there have been added beds at other facilities such as Oliver Lodge. The added demand for health care services comes as a result of population growth, and translates into more patients, clients and residents. However, when you indicate an 11.7 % increase in Continuing Care Assistant positions, it is obvious to our members it is not enough to address the added demand nor does it recognize the increased care requirements for more and more patients, clients and residents (particularly in the long term care sector).
SEIU-West members want you to know that there are not enough health care providers to manage timely, safe, compassionate, quality and focused care in our health care system. We will continue to respectfully challenge you to acknowledge the gaps that exist in our health care system and work with our members to address the shortcomings.
CC: Honourable Warren Kaeding, Minister of Remote & Rural Health
Scott Livingstone, CEO of SHA
Vicki Mowat, NDP Opposition Health Critic