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Health Sciences Focus on Risks to Patient Safety

Prince Albert (May 9, 2011) – The Health Sciences Association of Saskatchewan sees strike action by its members, which launched Monday in Prince Albert, as an important opportunity to highlight how chronic under-staffing by health care employers is risking the safety of Saskatchewan patients, Health Sciences President Cathy Dickson said.

“The Wall government has allowed health care employers to balance their budgets by chronically under-staffing our specialized health care professions, which risks the health of many patients, and forces others to wait unacceptable lengths of time for needed health care services,” Dickson said from the picket line set up by striking professionals in Prince Albert.

“A report commissioned by the Wall government confirmed that 7 times a day in Rural Saskatchewan and 10 times a day in our cities, ambulances fail to get to patients within the national standards for safe response times. Ambulance services across the province are under­staffed,” Dickson said.

“Physical therapists have waiting lists of six months to a year for non-surgical patients. The result is that conditions, which could have been treated, become chronic and deteriorate. Even post-surgical patients, who need physical therapy to recover properly, can wait weeks for help and too many have to leave hospital before being seen by a physical therapist. Saskatchewan has the lowest level of physical therapists per capita in Western Canada,” Dickson noted.

“There are similar examples from each of the more than thirty specialized health care professions we represent. Right here in the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region, we have an example at the Diabetes Education Centre, which has functioned without a full-time Registered Dietitian for more than a year,” Dickson noted.

“Dietitians are the specialists trained to provide advice on the nutrition medical therapy that can help patients manage chronic diseases like diabetes. People with poor diabetes control have high rates of renal disease and end up on dialysis, and ultimately can suffer amputations, blindness and cardiovascular disease. However, since the centre’s Registered Dietitian went on medical leave in November 2009 and eventually left the position, no one has been recruited to replace her. Patients who come to this centre seeking help to manage diabetes and other chronic diseases, have to go on a waiting list for a dietitian who visits once a week or get advice from non-specialists,” Dickson said.

“This is an example of what employers call “vacancy management”, where they leave professional positions vacant for as long as possible as a way to balance their budget. It’s wrong. It means poorer service for tens of thousands of our patients, and it risks their safety, Dickson concluded.

For Further Information Contact:

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

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