Where’s Jim Reiter? Far Away From Reality and Accountability

Where’s Jim Reiter? Far Away From Reality and Accountability

October 23, 2020

On October 22, 2020 an article was posted on WestCentral Online titled “Candidate Profile: Jim Reiter, Sask. Party, Rosetown-Elrose”. This article is the latest example of how, when it comes to health care in west-central Saskatchewan, Mr Reiter’s actions don’t match his words, and his words don’t reflect front line realities.

Mr Reiter is quoted as saying that healthcare is one of the major topics on his constituents’ minds heading into the election. That much is true… but it’s because of the failures of his own government. He says that when they were first elected in 2007 there was a shortfall of health care staff, but that we are today “in a much better situation” because “we have 900 more doctors” and “we are still actively recruiting.” We view this, at best, as a gross misrepresentation of reality.

Although doctors and registered nurses get most of the attention, it takes a lot more than MDs and RNs to make health care work—it also takes a whole team of health care providers. For example, most of the hands-on care in hospitals, long-term care, and home care is done by practical nurses and care aides. We also depend on the skill and hard work of lab and X-ray techs, and the cleaning and housekeeping staff—who were already scrambling when enhanced COVID procedures were added to their workloads this spring. SEIU-West represents thousands of health care providers across west-central and southwest Saskatchewan, including in the communities in the Health Minister’s own constituency. For years our members have been telling the public and their MLAs—including Mr Reiter, in a detailed letter on December 2, 2019—that understaffing is a constant, serious problem at hospitals and long-term care facilities throughout the region. In the past few months alone, SEIU-West has posted examples on its Twitter page with the hashtags #EndUnderstaffing and #WheresJimReiter: we reported on a long term-care home that often goes up to four days with no cleaning due to a lack of housekeeping staff. We also told the public about how a 30-bed facility in the region is so short of care staff that an entire wing often goes without care for hours at a time.

How does Mr. Reiter expect to recruit health care providers to this region, and especially to retain them, when SEIU-West health care providers have been without a contract for more than 3½ years, and have not seen a raise in nearly 5? Why won’t he acknowledge that this lack of a contract is because of his government’s stubborn refusal to give the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) the money and the mandate to offer health providers the fair deal needed to address understaffing? Mr Reiter sits at the Cabinet table, and occupies one of the most important Cabinet posts: Minister of Health. Where is the evidence that he has been speaking up at that table, advocating for the resources that our region and our province’s health system so desperately needs?

It’s bad enough that Mr Reiter misrepresents what he and his government are doing for health care. What’s worse are his false claims about what they’re doing for democracy.

In the article, he “encouraged constituents to reach out to their elected official to have their voices heard”. “Every person’s opinion matters.” "Constituents should not be shy to stand up for what they need out of their government.” In reality, Mr Reiter and his government colleagues have repeatedly ignored or rebuffed the efforts of SEIU-West health providers and constituents of Rosetown-Elrose to have their concerns about the state of health care addressed.

On January 9, 2018, Mr Reiter told a group of SEIU-West members, including a care aide from Rosetown, that he would spend a few hours following that care aide at work at Rose Villa to get a frontline look at the work, and work conditions, health providers face. Further to Mr Reiter’s instructions, we worked with SHA officials to develop a plan for the day. When our members had a plan to share, the SHA officials referred us to the minister’s legislative staff, to whom we sent emails on September 27, October 11, and December 3 of 2018. We did not even receive the courtesy of a reply. In January 2020, we contacted the Minister’s staff on behalf of six health care providers who live and work in Rosetown-Elrose. These members wanted to meet with Mr Reiter at his constituency office in Rosetown to discuss their concerns about understaffing. Mr Reiter’s staff proposed a February date, the members arranged transportation and work leaves so they could attend attend, only to be told at the last minute that the Minister would not meet with them.

In slinking away from his obligations as a public representative Mr Reiter seems to have plenty of company among his Cabinet colleagues. On September 21, 2020, while a group of SEIU-West members and leaders sat patiently in the waiting area of the Cabinet office in Saskatoon for an opportunity to express their concerns about health care, Premier Scott Moe and Minister of Labour Don Morgan snuck out the back door rather than meet with our members.

October 26th is Election Day: a major opportunity to hold our provincial leaders accountable for their promises and actions. As that day approaches, it’s fair to ask the question: Where’s Jim Reiter?

  • Not at Rose Villa walking a day in the shoes of a care aide.
  • Not at his constituency office meeting with health care providers who live and vote in his riding.
  • Not raising his voice in Cabinet on behalf of the health of his constituents and the people of Saskatchewan.

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