Letter to the Premier - Melissa Christopherson, ORT-LPN (August, 2020)
Dear Premier Moe, MLA Nancy Heppner, and Minister of Health Jim Reiter:
I am a frontline health care provider who has worked as a Licenced Practical Nurse (LPN) in the Operating Room at St. Paul’s Hospital for the past thirteen years.
My job is to assess patients and support their families before and after surgery, and to assist the Surgeons and Anaesthesiologists during surgery. I know that every member of the health care team is vital – even more so during a pandemic.
When COVID-19 first started spreading in Saskatchewan, it felt like our health care team were the ‘guinea pigs’– and it was scary. Every day, something changed – what happened yesterday is not going to happen today – so after each shift, I wondered if I was going to come home and threaten my family’s wellbeing. We felt very alone in this process, and while trial periods often comes with the job, feeling undervalued should not.
We’re on the frontline in combating health emergencies, like COVID-19, and while we hear from politicians that we’re heroes, we certainly don’t get treated that way.
Since I’ve been working in health care, we’ve never really had fairness at the bargaining table with our employer – year after year, inflation goes up but our wages do not. I know many people who are working two or three jobs in health care, just to make ends meet.
With cohorting, that struggle is even worse. Health care workers are slowly descending into the working poor – a category that should never exist in our communities. These conditions do not attract more people to the health care sector, so our workload goes up – this is a huge safety issue for everyone involved. By ensuring fair wages, we can create a working environment that people actually want to work in.
With the election around the corner, my new MLA candidate with the Sask Party knocked on my door. They began thanking me for my support, but I told them, you don’t have it now. Not after the lack of respect our health care team has felt over the years, and particularly during this pandemic.
While MLAs get raises each year that reflect inflation, we do not. Why is your job more important than mine? We are constantly told we’re so essential, but that phrase is being thrown around like water – if we’re so essential, then pay us what we’re worth – let’s see those words put into action.
I am asking that you each write back personally, as I do not want another canned response. And please don’t remind me that you took a 3% wage cut a few years ago – that cut is a drop in the bucket on your salaries – for health care workers, it could mean affording rent.
As our government representatives, you need to put muscle behind your words of thanks. Please do your part to ensure health care providers have the backing of their government to work on living wages and receive a cost of living increase each year – and that means ensuring the proper investment in health care.
I look forward to your response,
Melissa Christopherson, constituent of Nancy Heppner