SEIU-West members have been calling, meeting, and writing their MLAs to discuss their concerns about unsafe staffing levels in health care. Members of the Political Action and Awareness Committee (PAAC) have also been meeting with elected officials, including our Premier. This meeting took place on December 14, following a discussion with Premier Moe at a Sask Party BBQ last summer where staffing levels and respect for health care workers were shared. Below, you will find the letter to the Premier as a follow-up from their December meeting, and the Premier's response. If you need assistance setting up a meeting or writing a letter to your elected officials, email firstname.lastname@example.org!
We conveyed that we have no minimum care standards in long term care; it depends where you work and how many care providers there are, as to the workload. We raised the issue of mandating health care workers to work beyond full-time hours, with an example of Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) being put in a position to either abandon their residents/patients or break The Saskatchewan Employment Act by working over 16 hours; all because there was no staff available to replace. We told you this is unfair and unsafe. We mentioned a wing that went unstaffed overnight because there was no one available. We talked about vacant positions that cannot be filled, and regrettably those numbers have grown since December. We discussed an equipment specialist who felt she couldn't access bereavement or sick leave because she knew cancelled appointments would mean another 6-12 months wait time for those families with children in need of care. We identified hard-to-recruit classifications such as the MRI Techs who are leaving the sector for better wages and work conditions.
It appeared that our Premier understood the need to increase staffing levels. So I have let our members know in my many journeys that you seemed to hear and understand the struggles frontline health care providers face daily. I even sent out a letter to fellow leaders to tell them how you met with us and I told them that our voices matter.
While we are grateful to hear that you have found funding for mental health; this is a critical need and unfortunately many of our frontline workers are going to need it. They feel overwhelmed often, because they can't provide the care they know our seniors and most vulnerable deserve. Many have issues balancing work family life, not only due to mandating, also due to their self-imposed obligation to work many, many shifts in a row because they know no one else is there to do it.
We appreciate that change is slow in government, but your government needs to understand that it is necessary to create a healthier environment for health care workers and their patients, clients and residents in Saskatchewan. After hearing the budget details yesterday, it seems we have been forgotten again. Funding for more beds doesn't cut it - we need more health providers every day in our care environments. So I ask, whose voices matter and when will ours be heard?
SEIU-West Political Action and Awareness Committee
To read the Premier's response, click here.