SEIU-West, SGEU, and CUPE have sent a letter to Premier Scott Moe to once again reach out about the staffing crisis in Saskatchewan's health care system and are proposing the creation of a Health Human Resources Council. Read the full letter...
November 5, 2021
Premier Scott Moe
Room 226 Legislative Building
2405 Legislative Drive
Regina, SK S4S 0B3
Dear Premier Moe:
We are writing regarding the emergency order you announced on September 13, 2021, reinstating an expired Letter of Understanding (LOU) regarding staff redeployment/labour pools/supplemental workforces. This was a negotiated LOU that included SEIU-West, SGEU, CUPE, HSAS, and SUN. The expiration of the LOU was predicated on the cancellation of the previous Public Health Orders issued by your government, in relation to cohorting.
The emergency order that reinstated this expired LOU created confusion, which was compounded by the fact that the healthcare providers bargaining association, comprised of representatives from SEIU-West, CUPE 5430 and SGEU Health Providers, was in the midst of negotiations with the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) on terms to address the shortage of staff that was predicted with the advent of the fourth wave of COVID-19. Your announcement pre-empted any further discussions, which then resulted in a lack of clarity about the applicability of various aspects of the LOU, the inability to problem-solve issues within the application of the expired LOU, and the abandonment of a shared unity of purpose to ensure the best care possible within the healthcare system.
As of the current date, there is still a lack of clarity over the implications arising from the emergency order. On behalf of over 27,000 frontline essential healthcare workers, we are asking for answers to the following:
- Prior to invoking the emergency order did you, the Ministers of Health or any Ministry of Health staff determine what the trigger would be to end the emergency order?
- Can you now provide clarity to healthcare workers across the province as to the criteria under which the emergency order will be lifted?
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, health care provider members within CUPE, SEIU-West and SGEU have been on the frontlines providing high quality care for patients, residents and clients, so we understand better than most the need for adequate staffing during the fourth wave in our province. In fact, we identified the need for urgent and concrete action on recruitment and retention in the healthcare system long ago and have been calling for a shared table on health human resources for over a decade.
We join politicians, academics and other unions in acknowledging that inadequate human resources in the healthcare system is a serious problem faced by provincial governments across Canada and national governments around the globe. Unfortunately, frontline workers are left with the sense that there is no will within government and ministry leadership to do anything meaningful to resolve this problem. Implementing an emergency order that forces healthcare workers to abide by an expired LOU does little to show that your government is willing to look at significant actions to address the short-term and long-term human resource needs in our healthcare system.
Furthermore, there seems to be a lack of any solid plan to bring our healthcare human resources back from the free fall we currently find ourselves in due to the additional challenges caused by the pandemic. The number of retirements and resignations within the health system has never been this high; this is in addition to the overwhelming vacancies that already existed in all classifications, regions, and services within the Saskatchewan Health Authority. With that picture in mind, we demand to see your government’s plan to address the systemic staffing crisis we currently find ourselves in.
There must be a solid commitment by your government to rebuild our healthcare system including the allocation of resources to make the type of changes that will have a lasting impact. This staffing crisis began long before the pandemic. It is your duty as the head of our provincial government to take action to change the trajectory we are currently on – the full collapse of the healthcare system.
In closing, we are requesting a meeting as soon as possible to discuss establishing a health human resources council that would combine the knowledge and skill of unions representing front line workers, education institutions. Employers and government representatives. Sharing our expertise and solutions will go a long way in addressing this growing crisis.
We stand ready to meet with you to tackle the challenges facing our province.
Tanya Schmidt SGEU Health Providers Bargaining Chair (639) 328-7229 Fax: (306) 920-7688 [email protected]
Bashir Jalloh President CUPE 5430 (306) 546-2185 Fax: (306) 757-0102 [email protected]
Barbara Cape President SEIU-West (306) 631-4713 Fax: (306) 652-1399 [email protected]
cc: Honourable Paul Merriman, Minister of Health
Honourable Everett Hindley, Minister of Rural and Remote Health
Deputy Minister of Health, Max Hendriks