Saskatchewan. government unveils plan to hire and retain more healthcare professionals
The Saskatchewan government’s plan to address the province’s health care situation is becoming clearer, after announcing Wednesday that it will spend about $60 million to hire and retain health professionals in the province.
The government first announced its intention to hire and retain more health professionals when it unveiled its latest provincial budget in the spring.
« We understand there are issues. We’ve had very direct and honest feedback from health care workers and that’s where this plan came from, » Health Minister Paul Merriman said during a briefing. joint press conference with Rural and Remote Health Minister Everett Hindley on Wednesday.
« That’s why we’re rolling out this plan now – and it’s not just a plan for now, it’s also a long-term plan. »
Earlier this summer, the Saskatchewan Nurses Union said 83% of its members reported vacancies in their units.
Several communities across the province have been impacted by temporary service disruptions due to a shortage of staff this summer.
The province says it aims to recruit about 1,000 additional doctors, nurses and other healthcare support staff to fill vacant positions.
Merriman said the strategy will involve the Department of Higher Education and a plan to recruit more overseas health professionals.
People already living in Canada with international health care training will also be targeted for job opportunities, he said.
Some part-time and temporary positions will also be converted to full-time positions.
Work should start as soon as possible, said the two ministers present at Wednesday’s press conference.
Merriman said the challenges Saskatchewan faces in its health care system are similar to those in Canada and around the world, but he said the hiring and retention program should stabilize Saskatchewan’s system.
« We can’t fix this issue in three months. It’s an ongoing issue that we’ve had as part of our human resources strategy, » Merriman said.
“We need to be able to develop programs that will solve some of the things right now, but also [them] long term. »
Fight against health problems in rural areas
Some of the positions the province plans to fill will be dedicated to rural health, which Hindley says will focus on areas affected by service disruptions, such as temporary changes to emergency or acute case departments, or shifts in the availability of laboratory services.
« If you look at these temporary service disruptions, there’s a common theme there. It’s largely because they don’t have enough [registered nurses]Where [licensed practical nurses] or they don’t have enough staff,” Hindley said.
« That’s why the focus is on a number of [job] designations. That being said, we know there are other areas of the province where we are short of health care professionals. »
Assistant Deputy Minister of Rural Health Billie-Jo Morrissette said an exact breakdown of the distribution of new positions in the province was not yet available.
She said it will depend on the type of resources needed in each community. The jobs will be divided into nine different categories, including nurses, doctors, laboratory technicians and orderlies.
Hindley said Wednesday’s announcement builds on health care funding announced in the spring provincial budget and is just the start.
He called the plan « one of the most competitive in the country », but added that there was still a lot of work to be done to get it right.
He said overall, however, he is “very confident” the province will be able to create the health care positions outlined in the plan.
« We’ve had a really good response, for example…from the Philippines, which is a country we’ve been successful in bringing in health care workers from before, » Hindley said.
“I think there is also confidence in rural communities. … I am convinced with today’s announcement and today’s measures that we are moving in the right direction.”
Plan does not solve immediate problems: SUN
Saskatchewan Nurses Union president Tracy Zambory said the union may have provided information about the state of the provincial health care system to the government, but was not consulted during of the creation of the plan.
While the province’s strategy addresses long-term issues, it lacks elements that would immediately address system constraints, she said, such as creating a nursing resource team.
Such a committee “could be formed together today and convene a meeting immediately this week,” she said.
She said the plan won’t immediately stop the number of nurses the province is seeing « bleeding out of the system. »
Many nurses who have left the province say they feel their workplaces are « in chaos », according to Zambory, who said nothing in the government’s plan addresses that problem.
« There’s nothing here that examines nursing leadership or encourages nursing leadership in the workplace. There’s nothing here to address mental health issues, » she said.
« This is a plan that unfortunately will do nothing to retain registered nurses in the immediate future. »
The Saskatchewan NDP echoed Zambory’s concerns and said the Saskatchewan Party government is 500 jobs short of addressing issues in its hiring targets.
An opposition party press release said the 1,000 new positions would be only two-thirds of what is needed to fill current job postings on the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s website.
Health spokeswoman Vicki Mowat said the plan announced Wednesday was something the provincial government should have been working on years ago, but the province « has been sitting on its hands instead. » as health care gaps widened.
“While it is good to see action following our call for full-time positions and training places, almost half of what was announced today are repackaged old policies,” said Mowat.
Of the 26 measures outlined in the government’s plan, only 14 were new, she said. She noted that provinces like British Columbia and Ontario announced similar plans months ago.
“Healthcare workers are moving to other provinces like British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario despite the higher cost of living. When it comes to retention, this plan is vague on specifics and does not provide concrete strategies for keeping healthcare workers in Saskatchewan,” Mowat said.
« Retention should have been priority #1. »