Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan

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Health Sciences Continues to Focus on Risks to Patient Safety

Saskatoon (May 11, 2011) – The Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan says chronic under-staffing by health care employers is risking the safety of Saskatchewan patients.

“While health care employers and the Wall government try to deny there is an under-staffing problem among health care professionals, independent research institutes and front-line health care professionals confirm the problem,” Health Sciences President Cathy Dickson said from the picket line set up by striking professionals in Saskatoon.

“There are a number of examples right here in the Saskatoon Health Region of how employers are trying to balance their budgets by under-staffing professionals, which puts many patients at risk and forces others to wait unacceptable lengths of time to access needed health care services,” Dickson said.

“Respiratory Therapists are the specialists who help critically ill patients breathe when they can’t on their own. Saskatchewan has the lowest number of Respiratory Therapists per capita in Canada, as confirmed by the independent Canadian Institute of Health Information (CIHI). In fact a single hospital in Alberta – Calgary Foothills Hospital – has more Respiratory Therapists than the entire Province of Saskatchewan,” Dickson noted.

“At Royal University Hospital, there are no Respiratory Therapists assigned solely to the wards to look after the large number of patients with serious breathing problems. RTs look after patients in the Intensive Care Units, but ward patients are often left to others. Recently, a nurse took a ward patient off a ventilator and capped their tracheostomy tube, without deflating the balloon valve to allow them to breathe on their own. The patient almost suffocated. A ‘code blue’ had to be called. An RT responded to the emergency from one of the intensive care units, and was barely able to save the patient from going into cardiac arrest,” Dickson said.

“CIHI confirms that Saskatchewan has the lowest number of Audiologists per capita in Western Canada. Here in Saskatoon, the waiting list for pediatric audiology services is a year or more. The impact on children is huge. Their speech and language are developing rapidly, and if there is a hearing loss that is the result of a chronic ear infection or permanent nerve damage, a child can lose crucial developmental ground,” Dickson explained.

“At the Kinsmen Children’s Centre here in Saskatoon, the waiting list for an autism diagnostic assessment is about 18 months, while a diagnostic assessment for fetal alcohol disorder has a waiting list of about a year. Ask the families who have to wait for their children to be assessed if they think health care employers are staffing specialized health care professionals to a proper level,” Dickson said.

“There are similar examples from each of the more than thirty specialized health care professions we represent across the province, and we will continue to focus on these examples as our strike action expands in the days ahead,” Dickson concluded.

For Further Information Contact:

Cathy Dickson (President, Health Sciences)
1-306-361-5655

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