Letter to the Premier - Jasmine Lusher, ORT-LPN (June, 2020)
My name is Jasmine. I have worked in the health care system in Saskatchewan for 24 years. I have worked in many different capacities furthering my education along the way. I have always loved our province and my community. I have always had a sense of pride to serve the birth place of medicare in this country. I love my job.
It is for these reasons that I have continued working in this field for so many years. Despite the fact that I have never, in 24 years, received a raise that equated with inflation. People seem to believe that union workers “make the big bucks” , but you and I know differently, don’t we?
The vast majority of my years as a union member I have received zero for an actual raise when the cost of living is considered. All health care workers know you have the need to balance the budget on our backs.
This has always been effective because working in health care is not a job, it’s a calling. We do it because we need to. We are called to.
I am writing this letter for one reason. To let you know that we love our families just as fiercely. This marginalization of health care workers requires walking a fine line. We can be pushed too far. It is not easy, as I said most of us feel a strong commitment to serve.
When I heard that the employer virtually “walked away” from negotiations, disrespecting my colleagues at the table in such a harsh way, I fell firmly on my face on the other side of this imaginary line. For the first time in 24 years.
The past few months have been the most difficult of my career. I don’t sleep at all the night before a shift. I do an online screening tool in my car prior to entering the hospital. Yesterday I had to call my manager as I had a headache and needed to be sure I could enter.
Once in the building I meet security where they verify my screening tool, take my temperature, witness me sanitizing my hands and provide me a sticker for my identification to indicate I passed the test for that shift. Once I get to the unit, in my case the operating rooms, I have minutes to review the procedural changes.
The process is: review, understand the rationale, understand how to implement. This changes daily. Many cases have required respirators. In these cases we partner with other nurses, surgeons, or anesthesiologists to don and doff PPE.
This is critical as this is when exposure is most likely. After the cases, which may require breathing through a respirator for hours, we go one at a time to shower. We must wash from head to toe, including hair wash. We then put on clean scrubs, tie up wet hair, and do it again.
Despite all this, the worst part is coming home to my family. Not hugging them. Not receiving their comfort when I need it most.
It has been hard to keep going on like this. When I heard that the employer got up from the bargaining table and turned off the meeting, I knew. I knew it was a message for me to leave health care.
Caring for a community, risking my safety, my family’s safety, when they don’t respect me enough to make sure I can continue to feed and house my family - this is not acceptable. I have never before felt ashamed of Saskatchewan.
I am now struggling to find a way to even be happy living in a province where the government doesn’t respect health care workers enough to even provide them with basic cost of living increases; to help them maintain a modest standard of living.
This is especially painful when I go on to see my government representatives have received cost of living increases repeatedly. When my neighbour tells me the government is providing their private business an additional $5000 to remain closed.
When I see messages from all the people working safely from home, including my government representatives. I can’t stay home. I can’t stay safe. I am a health care worker.
I would like you to know just how disappointed I am that you choose to support your colleagues, those in the business including both energy and agriculture sector – yet you choose to turn your back on the very people who have been key to flattening the curve in this pandemic. How about some fairness for health care?