NDP decries new health care strategy, wants consultation with workers

“Health-care providers have been open and willing to talk. It is time we start talking before there is no one left to talk to.”

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The Saskatchewan NDP joined calls from unions in the province for the government to consider the current state of health care as it moves forward with an ambitious plan.

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The $60-million plan, announced earlier this month, is to hire 1,000 new health-care workers over the next few years through various strategies.

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Those include hiring 200 nurses from the Philippines, offering accelerated training for internationally educated newcomers, providing a $50,000 incentive program, adding 100 new full-time staff in rural areas and looking at increasing the number of seats in post-secondary institutions. None of its components has a specific timeline.

At a media conference on Friday, NDP leader Carla Beck echoed concerns expressed by health-care workers about the “inadequate” staffing plan focusing on bringing in new workers without alleviating immediate pressures on the system.

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Beck said the government should have consulted with people working on the front lines about how to combat retention issues and burnout.

“We know that Saskatchewan is in competition with other provinces for scarce health-care workers, which is why it’s so frustrating that this government didn’t listen to those working day in and day out on our front line to develop a plan that would set us apart,” she said.

Beck was joined by nurse practitioner Jenna-Lee Hostin. The Saskatchewan Association of Nurse Practitioners was among the plan’s critics, saying it appears to leave out nurse practitioners.

A recent survey from the SANP found that many nurse practitioners are unable to find full-time work in the province. While seats are being added to registered nurse practitioner education programs, SANP president Tara Schmalenberg said it’s vague as to whether there will be jobs available.

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“The government is failing to solve the ongoing crises of our health-care system by refusing to utilize and consult with the health-care providers who have dedicated their professional lives to the people of Saskatchewan,” Hostin said.

“Health-care providers have been open and willing to talk. It is time we start talking before there is no one left to talk to.”

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