Saskatchewan – Late last week, amid facility closures and service disruptions across the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), the SHA quietly released a troubling measure to respond to “staff shortages”.
The SHA issued a tender inviting health care “staffing agencies” to apply for a three-year renewable contract to provide “temporary staffing services” in 25 listed job classifications, from nurses to care aides to laboratory technologists.
“This is at best a bandaid response to a chronic problem,” said Barbara Cape, President of SEIU-West. “At worst, it’s a further step in the government’s plans to hand over more of our public health care system to private, for-profit businesses while still not improving services or supporting front line healthcare workers in providing care.”
SEIU-West represents several thousand SHA employees in jobs that are on the list.
Two-and-a-half years of pandemic have clearly revealed what SEIU-West members on the front lines in acute care, long-term care, and home/community care have been saying for over a decade: the system is in shambles.
According to a recent survey of more than 800 SEIU-West members working in the health system, 85% felt the system has gotten worse, yet 90% want to continue working in it. “They are committed to it, and to helping make it better.”
“For more than a decade this government was hell-bent on making the health system ‘lean’,” Cape continues. “The system was already stretched to the limit when COVID hit. Throughout the pandemic, health care workers like our members have been struggling to keep the system working. They are burning out.”
“But the answer is not to treat health care workers like spare parts for ‘just-in-time’ delivery. We need sustained investment in training, recruiting, and retaining people in our public health care system. We do this by offering them a career, not a series of temporary ‘gigs’”.
The documents include a draft contract between the SHA and the agency that spells out the wages and other employment terms of the agency’s employees.
The Saskatchewan government and the SHA leaders it has hand-picked do not have a coherent plan to address chronic understaffing.
The tender documents state that the SHA is mandated to provide “provincially coordinated quality, patient-centred care services”.
“Where will the agency find these employees?” Cape wondered.
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Service Employees International Union West (SEIU-West) represents over 13,000 people across Saskatchewan. They include people who work in health care, education, municipalities, community-based organizations, retirement homes, and other sectors. They are joined by one colour – purple – and one union – SEIU-West. Visit PurpleWorks.ca to find out more about SEIU-West members.
For more information, contact:
Communications Coordinator, SEIU-West
306-652-1011 ext. 2244